Multimodal encoding of novelty, reward, and learning in the primate nucleus basalis of meynert

Clarissa Martinez-Rubio, Angelique C. Paulk, Eric J. McDonald, Alik S. Widge, Emad N. Eskandar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Associative learning is crucial for daily function, involving a complex network of brain regions. One region, the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM), is a highly interconnected, largely cholinergic structure implicated in multiple aspects of learning. We show that single neurons in the NBM of nonhuman primates (NHPs; n=2 males; Macaca mulatta) encode learning a new association through spike rate modulation. However, the power of low-frequency local field potential (LFP) oscillations decreases in response to novel, not-yet-learned stimuli but then increase as learning progresses. Both NBM and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex encode confidence in novel associations by increasing low-and high-frequency LFP power in anticipation of expected rewards. Finally, NBM high-frequency power dynamics are anticorrelated with spike rate modulations. Therefore, novelty, learning, and reward anticipation are separately encoded through differentiable NBM signals. By signaling both the need to learn and confidence in newly acquired associations, NBM may play a key role in coordinating cortical activity throughout the learning process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1942-1958
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 21 2018


  • Encoding cognitive state
  • Learning
  • Local field potential
  • Nucleus basalis of Meynert
  • Single neuron activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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