Amplified cortical neural responses as animals learn to use novel activity patterns

Bradley Akitake, Hannah M. Douglas, Paul K. LaFosse, Manuel Beiran, Ciana E. Deveau, Jonathan O'Rawe, Anna J. Li, Lauren N. Ryan, Samuel P. Duffy, Zhishang Zhou, Yanting Deng, Kanaka Rajan, Mark H. Histed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Cerebral cortex supports representations of the world in patterns of neural activity, used by the brain to make decisions and guide behavior. Past work has found diverse, or limited, changes in the primary sensory cortex in response to learning, suggesting that the key computations might occur in downstream regions. Alternatively, sensory cortical changes may be central to learning. We studied cortical learning by using controlled inputs we insert: we trained mice to recognize entirely novel, non-sensory patterns of cortical activity in the primary visual cortex (V1) created by optogenetic stimulation. As animals learned to use these novel patterns, we found that their detection abilities improved by an order of magnitude or more. The behavioral change was accompanied by large increases in V1 neural responses to fixed optogenetic input. Neural response amplification to novel optogenetic inputs had little effect on existing visual sensory responses. A recurrent cortical model shows that this amplification can be achieved by a small mean shift in recurrent network synaptic strength. Amplification would seem to be desirable to improve decision-making in a detection task; therefore, these results suggest that adult recurrent cortical plasticity plays a significant role in improving behavioral performance during learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2163-2174.e4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 5 Jun 2023


  • RNN
  • behavior
  • calcium imaging
  • neural computation
  • optogenetics
  • perceptual learning
  • plasticity
  • visual cortex


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