Stimulus information guides the emergence of behavior related signals in primary somatosensory cortex during learning


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Cortical neurons in primary sensory cortex carry not only sensory but also behavior-related information. However, it remains unclear how these types of information emerge and are integrated with one another over learning and what the relative contribution of activity in individual cells versus neuronal populations is in this process. Current evidence supports two opposing views of learning-related changes: 1) sensory information increases in primary cortex or 2) sensory information remains stable in primary cortex but its readout efficiency in association cortices increases. Here, we investigate these questions in primary sensory cortex during learning of a sensory task. Over the course of weeks, we imaged neuronal activity at different depths within layers 2 and 3 of the mouse vibrissal primary somatosensory cortex (vS1) before, during, and after training on a whisker-based object-localization task. We leveraged information theoretical analysis to quantify stimulus and behavior-related information in vS1 and estimate how much neural activity encoding sensory information is used to inform perceptual choices as sensory learning progresses. We also quantified the extent to which these types of information are supported by an individual neuron or population code. We found that, while sensory information rises progressively from the start of training, choice information is only present in the final stages of learning and is increasingly supported by a population code. Moreover, we demonstrate that not only the increase in available information, but also a more efficient readout of such information in primary sensory cortex mediate sensory learning. Together, our results highlight the importance of primary cortical neurons in perceptual learning. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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