Learning strategy trumps motivational level in determining learning-induced auditory cortical plasticity

Katarzyna Bieszczad, Norman M. Weinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Associative memory for auditory-cued events involves specific plasticity in the primary auditory cortex (A1) that facilitates responses to tones which gain behavioral significance, by modifying representational parameters of sensory coding. Learning strategy, rather than the amount or content of learning, can determine this learning-induced cortical (high order) associative representational plasticity (HARP). Thus, tone-contingent learning with signaled errors can be accomplished either by (1) responding only during tone duration ("tone-duration" strategy, T-Dur), or (2) responding from tone onset until receiving an error signal for responses made immediately after tone offset ("tone-onset-to-error", TOTE). While rats using both strategies achieve the same high level of performance, only those using the TOTE strategy develop HARP, viz., frequency-specific decreased threshold (increased sensitivity) and decreased bandwidth (increased selectivity) (Berlau & Weinberger, 2008). The present study challenged the generality of learning strategy by determining if high motivation dominates in the formation of HARP. Two groups of adult male rats were trained to bar-press during a 5.0 kHz (10 s, 70 dB) tone for a water reward under either high (HiMot) or moderate (ModMot) levels of motivation. The HiMot group achieved a higher level of correct performance. However, terminal mapping of A1 showed that only the ModMot group developed HARP, i.e., increased sensitivity and selectivity in the signal-frequency band. Behavioral analysis revealed that the ModMot group used the TOTE strategy while HiMot subjects used the T-Dur strategy. Thus, type of learning strategy, not level of learning or motivation, is dominant for the formation of cortical plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Volume93
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010

Fingerprint

Learning
Motivation
Auditory Cortex
Reward
Water

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Keywords

  • Instrumental conditioning
  • Memory
  • Neurophysiology
  • Primary auditory cortex
  • Representation

Cite this

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Learning strategy trumps motivational level in determining learning-induced auditory cortical plasticity. / Bieszczad, Katarzyna; Weinberger, Norman M.

In: Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Vol. 93, No. 2, 01.02.2010, p. 229-239.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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