A simple network architecture accounts for diverse reward time responses in primary visual cortex

Marco A. Huertas, Marshall G. Hussain Shuler, Harel Z. Shouval

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many actions performed by animals and humans depend on an ability to learn, estimate, and produce temporal intervals of behavioral relevance. Exemplifying such learning of cued expectancies is the observation of reward-timing activity in the primary visual cortex (V1) of rodents, wherein neural responses to visual cues come to predict the time of future reward as behaviorally experienced in the past. These reward-timing responses exhibit significant heterogeneity in at least three qualitatively distinct classes: sustained increase or sustained decrease in firing rate until the time of expected reward, and a class of cells that reach a peak in firing at the expected delay. We elaborate upon our existing model by including inhibitory and excitatory units while imposing simple connectivity rules to demonstrate what role these inhibitory elements and the simple architectures play in sculpting the response dynamics of the network. We find that simply adding inhibition is not sufficient for obtaining the different distinct response classes, and that a broad distribution of inhibitory projections is necessary for obtaining peak-type responses. Furthermore, although changes in connection strength that modulate the effects of inhibition onto excitatory units have a strong impact on the firing rate profile of these peaked responses, the network exhibits robustness in its overall ability to predict the expected time of reward. Finally, we demonstrate how the magnitude of expected reward can be encoded at the expected delay in the network and how peaked responses express this reward expectancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12659-12672
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 16 2015


  • Reinforcement learning
  • Reward
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Timing
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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