Stimulus-Response-Outcome Coding in the Pigeon Nidopallium Caudolaterale

Starosta, Sarah; Güntürkün, Onur; Stüttgen, Maik C.
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
A prerequisite for adaptive goal-directed behavior is that animals constantly evaluate action outcomes and relate them to both their antecedent behavior and to stimuli predictive of reward or non-reward. Here, we investigate whether single neurons in the avian nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL), a multimodal associative forebrain structure and a presumed analogue of mammalian prefrontal cortex, represent information useful for goal-directed behavior. We subjected pigeons to a go-nogo task, in which responding to one visual stimulus (S+) was partially reinforced, responding to another stimulus (S–) was punished, and responding to test stimuli from the same physical dimension (spatial frequency) was inconsequential. The birds responded most intensely to S+, and their response rates decreased monotonically as stimuli became progressively dissimilar to S+; thereby, response rates provided a behavioral index of reward expectancy. We found that many NCL neurons' responses were modulated in the stimulus discrimination phase, the outcome phase, or both. A substantial fraction of neurons increased firing for cues predicting non-reward or decreased firing for cues predicting reward. Interestingly, the same neurons also responded when reward was expected but not delivered, and could thus provide a negative reward prediction error or, alternatively, signal negative value. In addition, many cells showed motor-related response modulation. In summary, NCL neurons represent information about the reward value of specific stimuli, instrumental actions as well as action outcomes, and therefore provide signals useful for adaptive behavior in dynamically changing environments.


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