Operant conditioning of neural activity has typically been performed under controlled behavioral conditions using food reinforcement. This has limited the duration and behavioral context for neural conditioning. To reward cell activity in unconstrained primates, we sought sites in nucleus accumbens (NAc) whose stimulation reinforced operant responding. In three monkeys, NAc stimulation sustained performance of a manual target-tracking task, with response rates that increased monotonically with increasing NAc stimulation. We recorded activity of single motor cortex neurons and documented their modulation with wrist force. We conditioned increased firing rates with the monkey seated in the training booth and during free behavior in the cage using an autonomous head-fixed recording and stimulating system. Spikes occurring above baseline rates triggered single or multiple electrical pulses to the reinforcement site. Such rate-contingent, unit-triggered stimulation was made available for periods of 1–3 min separated by 3–10 min time-out periods. Feedback was presented as event-triggered clicks both in-cage and in-booth, and visual cues were provided in many in-booth sessions. In-booth conditioning produced increases in single neuron firing probability with intracranial reinforcement in 48 of 58 cells. Reinforced cell activity could rise more than five times that of non-reinforced activity. In-cage conditioning produced significant increases in 21 of 33 sessions. In-cage rate changes peaked later and lasted longer than in-booth changes, but were often comparatively smaller, between 13 and 18% above non-reinforced activity. Thus intracranial stimulation reinforced volitional increases in cortical firing rates during both free behavior and a controlled environment, although changes in the latter were more robust.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Closed-loop brain-computer interfaces (BCI) were used to operantly condition increases in muscle and neural activity in monkeys by delivering activity-dependent stimuli to an intracranial reinforcement site (nucleus accumbens). We conditioned increased firing rates with the monkeys seated in a training booth and also, for the first time, during free behavior in a cage using an autonomous head-fixed BCI.
- intracranial reinforcement
- operant conditioning
- neural activity
- free behavior
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
Please sign in below with your personal user name and password.