Most behaviors are generated in three steps: sensing the external world, processing that information toinstruct decision-making, and producing a motor action. Sensory areas, especially primary sensory cortices, have long been held to be involved only in the first step of this sequence. Here, we develop a visually cued interval timing task that requires rats to decide when to perform an action following a brief visual stimulus. Using single-unit recordings and optogenetics in this task, we show that activity generated by the primary visual cortex (V1) embodies the target interval and may instruct the decision to time the action on a trial-by-trial basis. A spiking neuronal model of local recurrent connections in V1 produces neural responses that predict and drive the timing offuture actions, rationalizing our observations. Our data demonstrate that the primary visual cortex may contribute to the instruction of visually cued timed actions.
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