Unexpected Rule-Changes in a Working Memory Task Shape the Firing of Histologically Identified Delay-Tuned Neurons in the Prefrontal Cortex.
Ozdemir AT., Lagler M., Lagoun S., Malagon-Vina H., Lasztóczi B., Klausberger T.
Working memory-guided behaviors require memory retention during delay periods, when subsets of prefrontal neurons have been reported to exhibit persistently elevated firing. What happens to delay activity when information stored in working memory is no longer relevant for guiding behavior? In this study, we perform juxtacellular recording and labeling of delay-tuned (-elevated or -suppressed) neurons in the prelimbic cortex of freely moving rats, performing a familiar delayed cue-matching-to-place task. Unexpectedly, novel task-rules are introduced, rendering information held in working memory irrelevant. Following successful strategy switching within one session, delay-tuned neurons are filled with neurobiotin for histological analysis. Delay-elevated neurons include pyramidal cells with large heterogeneity of soma-dendritic distribution, molecular expression profiles, and task-relevant activity. Rule change induces heterogenous adjustments on individual neurons and ensembles' activity but cumulates in balanced firing rate reorganizations across cortical layers. Our results demonstrate divergent cellular and network dynamics when an abrupt change in task rules interferes with working memory.