Master" neurons induced by operant conditioning in rat motor cortex during a brain-machine interface task. Article - Mai 2013

Pierre-Jean Arduin, Yves Frégnac, Daniel Shulz, Valérie Ego-Stengel

Pierre-Jean Arduin, Yves Frégnac, Daniel Shulz, Valérie Ego-Stengel, « Master" neurons induced by operant conditioning in rat motor cortex during a brain-machine interface task.  », Journal of Neuroscience, mai 2013, pp. 8308-20. ISSN 0270-6474

Abstract

Operant control of a prosthesis by neuronal cortical activity is one of the successful strategies for implementing brain-machine interfaces (BMI), by which the subject learns to exert a volitional control of goal-directed movements. However, it remains unknown if the induced brain circuit reorganization affects preferentially the conditioned neurons whose activity controlled the BMI actuator during training. Here, multiple extracellular single-units were recorded simultaneously in the motor cortex of head-fixed behaving rats. The firing rate of a single neuron was used to control the position of a one-dimensional actuator. Each time the firing rate crossed a predefined threshold, a water bottle moved toward the rat, until the cumulative displacement of the bottle allowed the animal to drink. After a learning period, most (88%) conditioned neurons raised their activity during the trials, such that the time to reward decreased across sessions : the conditioned neuron fired strongly, reliably and swiftly after trial onset, although no explicit instruction in the learning rule imposed a fast neuronal response. Moreover, the conditioned neuron fired significantly earlier and more strongly than nonconditioned neighboring neurons. During the first training sessions, an increase in firing rate variability was seen only for the highly conditionable neurons. This variability then decreased while the conditioning effect increased. These findings suggest that modifications during training target preferentially the neuron chosen to control the BMI, which acts then as a "master" neuron, leading in time the reconfiguration of activity in the local cortical network.

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