Studies of neural dynamics in lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC) have shown that subsets of neurons that encode distinct aspects of behavior, such as value, may project to common downstream targets. However, it is unclear whether reward history, which may subserve lOFC’s well-documented role in learning, is represented by functional subpopulations in lOFC. Previously, we analyzed neural recordings from rats performing a value-based decision-making task, and we documented trial-by-trial learning that required lOFC (Constantinople et al., 2019). Here we characterize functional subpopulations of lOFC neurons during behavior, including their encoding of task variables. We found five distinct clusters of lOFC neurons, either based on clustering of their trial-averaged peristimulus time histograms (PSTHs), or a feature space defined by their average conditional firing rates aligned to different task variables. We observed weak encoding of reward attributes, but stronger encoding of reward history, the animal’s left or right choice, and reward receipt across all clusters. Only one cluster, however, encoded the animal’s reward history at the time shortly preceding the choice, suggesting a possible role in integrating previous and current trial outcomes at the time of choice. This cluster also exhibits qualitatively similar responses to identified corticostriatal projection neurons in a recent study (Hirokawa et al., 2019), and suggests a possible role for subpopulations of lOFC neurons in mediating trial-by-trial learning.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)