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Modification in the pattern of neuronal specific activity of the rat retroslpenial cortex after learning new behavioral acts


E.A. Kuzina – Junior Research Scientist, Institute of Psychology RAS, Laboratory of Psychophysiology n.a. V.B. Schyrkov (Moscow)

In the course of learning a set of similar skills, every subsequent behavior develops more rapidly when the animal have the possibility to make use of its previous experience in a new context. In this case, some neurons that have specific activations in already learned behavior can be active also during learning a similar skill. Therefore, our task was to track possible changes in the distribution of neuronal activity after learning the first and second similar skills by comparing the proportions of selectively active neurons in the rat retrosplenial cortex (RC) following the acquisition of the first and second lever-pressing tasks. One groups of rats (Long-Evans, male, 6-15 months, n=4) gradually learned to press a lever and earn a piece of cheese from the feeder. Second group of rats (n=4) after gradual acquisition of the first operant behavior, also learned a similar skill on the opposite side of the cage. Recordings of single neurons of RC (AP=4,5, L=1) had been conducted following a week after the last learning session. We used glass microelectrodes filled by the 2,5M solution of KCl with the impedance of 2-4 Mom. All rats significantly earlier reached a criterion during learning a second skill compared to the first one. There were no significant differences between groups in the overall ratio of neurons with specific activations in the learned behaviour, yet the number of cells that had activations in acts of the “feeder” part (approaching a feeder and taking food) and the “lever” (approaching and pressing a lever) half of the behavioral cycle had changed. Whereas the first group of rats had the same proportion of neurons with specific activations in the “feeder’ and “lever” segments, the percent of “lever” cells in the second group significantly increased compared to the proportion of “feeder” cells that had not changed. So, it can be supposed that learning the very first and additional operant skills had the same “increased” level of actualization of systems represented by neurons (at least in RC) specialized in relation to acts that had been acquired at the most recent stages of formation of the given behavior.
This work was conducted as a part of the research program of Leading Scientific School of RF “System psychophysiology” (NSh-9808.2016.6) and supported by RHF № 17-06-00999.

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