The rostromedioventral striatum is critical for behavior dependent on evaluating rewards. We asked what contribution tonically active neurons (TANs), the putative striatal cholinergic interneurons, make in coding reward value in this part of the striatum. Two female monkeys were given the option to accept or reject an offered reward in each trial, the value of which was signaled by a visual cue. Forty-five percent of the TANs use temporally modulated activity to encode information about discounted value. These responses were significantly better represented using principal component analysis than by just counting spikes. The temporal coding is straightforward: the spikes are distributed according to a sinusoidal envelope of activity that changes gain, ranging from positive to negative according to discounted value. Our results show that the information about the relative value of an offered reward is temporally encoded in neural spike trains of TANs. This temporal coding may allow well tuned, coordinated behavior to emerge.
- Tonically active neurons
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