In the mammalian neocortex, segregated processing streams are thought to be important for forming sensory representations of the environment1, 2, but how local information in primary sensory cortex is transmitted to other distant cortical areas during behaviour is unclear. Here we show task-dependent activation of distinct, largely non-overlapping long-range projection neurons in the whisker region of primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in awake, behaving mice. Using two-photon calcium imaging, we monitored neuronal activity in anatomically identified S1 neurons projecting to secondary somatosensory (S2) or primary motor (M1) cortex in mice using their whiskers to perform a texture-discrimination task or a task that required them to detect the presence of an object at a certain location. Whisking-related cells were found among S2-projecting (S2P) but not M1-projecting (M1P) neurons. A higher fraction of S2P than M1P neurons showed touch-related responses during texture discrimination, whereas a higher fraction of M1P than S2P neurons showed touch-related responses during the detection task. In both tasks, S2P and M1P neurons could discriminate similarly between trials producing different behavioural decisions. However, in trials producing the same decision, S2P neurons performed better at discriminating texture, whereas M1P neurons were better at discriminating location. Sensory stimulus features alone were not sufficient to elicit these differences, suggesting that selective transmission of S1 information to S2 and M1 is driven by behaviour.
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- Video 1: 'Hit trial' during texture discrimination (1,161 KB, Download)
- Realtime video of hit trial from head-fixed mouse performing texture discrimination task during two-photon imaging. Video was acquired using an infrared CCD camera under infrared LED illumination (for high-speed whisker tracking) with additional illumination provided by two-photon excitation laser source.
- Video 2: 'Correct rejection' trial during texture discrimination (1,256 KB, Download)
- Realtime video of correct rejection trial from head-fixed mouse performing texture discrimination task during two-photon imaging. Video was acquired using an infrared CCD camera under infrared LED illumination (for high-speed whisker tracking) with additional illumination provided by two-photon excitation laser source.
- Video 3: Neuronal activity and whisking behavior during texture discrimination (796 KB, Download)
- Realtime playback of high-speed video of whisking and touch (top left panel) along with two-photon imaging of calcium activity in S1 (bottom panel) from a “correct rejection” trial. Top right panel shows measured whisker angle, whisking amplitude, and period of texture touch (orange region) along with calcium traces of active cells. Indicated cells 1-5 were behaviorally classified as touch cells with cells 1, 3-5 identified as S2P neurons and cell 2 identified as an UNL neuron.
- Supplementary Information (3.2 MB)
This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-14, Supplementary Methods and Supplementary Table 1.