Shinya Yamamoto, Hyoung F. Kim, and Okihide Hikosaka
J. Neurosci. 2013;33 11227-11238 Open Access
A goal-directed action aiming at an incentive outcome, if repeated, becomes a skill that may be initiated automatically. We now report that the tail of the caudate nucleus (CDt) may serve to control a visuomotor skill. Monkeys looked at many fractal objects, half of which were always associated with a large reward (high-valued objects) and the other half with a small reward (low-valued objects). After several daily sessions, they developed a gaze bias, looking at high-valued objects even when no reward was associated. CDt neurons developed a response bias, typically showing stronger responses to high-valued objects. In contrast, their responses showed no change when object values were reversed frequently, although monkeys showed a strong gaze bias, looking at high-valued objects in a goal-directed manner. The biased activity of CDt neurons may be transmitted to the oculomotor region so that animals can choose high-valued objects automatically based on stable reward experiences.