Choice-correlated activity fluctuations underlie learning of neuronal category representation

Tatiana A. Engel, Warasinee Chaisangmongkon, David J. Freedman, Xiao Jing Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to categorize stimuli into discrete behaviourally relevant groups is an essential cognitive function. To elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying categorization, we constructed a cortical circuit model that is capable of learning a motion categorization task through reward-dependent plasticity. Here we show that stable category representations develop in neurons intermediate to sensory and decision layers if they exhibit choice-correlated activity fluctuations (choice probability). In the model, choice probability and task-specific interneuronal correlations emerge from plasticity of top-down projections from decision neurons. Specific model predictions are confirmed by analysis of single-neuron activity from the monkey parietal cortex, which reveals a mixture of directional and categorical tuning, and a positive correlation between category selectivity and choice probability. Beyond demonstrating a circuit mechanism for categorization, the present work suggests a key role of plastic top-down feedback in simultaneously shaping both neural tuning and correlated neural variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6454
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Mar 11 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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