Single neuron activity and theta modulation in the posterior parietal cortex in a visuospatial attention task
ABSTRACT The posterior parietal cortex (PPC) is implicated in directing and maintaining visual attention to locations in space. We hypothesized that the PPC also engages other cognitive processes in the transformation of behaviorally relevant visual inputs into appropriate actions, for example, monitoring of multiple locations, selection of responses to locations in space, and monitoring the outcome of response selections. We recorded single cells and local field potentials in the rat PPC during performance on a novel visuospatial attention (VSA) task that requires visually monitoring locations in space in order to make appropriate stimulus‐guided locomotor responses. In each trial, rats attended to four locations on the floor of a maze. A randomly chosen location was briefly illuminated. Approach to the correct target location was followed by food reward. We observed that PPC activity correlated with multiple phases of the VSA task, including monitoring for stimulus onset, detection of a target, spatial location of the target, and target choice. A substantial proportion of cells with behavioral correlates were also modulated by outcome of the trial. Our analyses of local field potentials revealed strong oscillatory rhythms in the theta frequency band, and more than a third of PPC neurons were phase locked to theta oscillations. As in other brain regions, theta power correlated with running speed. Peak theta power was higher in superficial layers than deep layers providing evidence against volume conduction from the hippocampus. In addition, theta power was sensitive to the outcome of a choice. Theta power was significantly higher following incorrect choices compared with correct choices, possibly providing a prediction error signal. Our study provides evidence that the rat PPC has multiple roles in the translation of visual information into appropriate behavioral actions. ⓒ 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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