Interactions Between Motor Thalamic Field Potentials and Single-Unit Spiking Are Correlated With Behavior in Rats

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Field potential (FP) oscillations are believed to coordinate brain activity over large spatiotemporal scales, with specific features (e.g., phase and power) in discrete frequency bands correlated with motor output. Furthermore, complex correlations between oscillations in distinct frequency bands (phase-amplitude, amplitude-amplitude, and phase-phase coupling) are commonly observed. However, the mechanisms underlying FP-behavior correlations and cross-frequency coupling remain unknown. The thalamus plays a central role in generating many circuit-level neural oscillations, and single-unit activity in motor thalamus (Mthal) is correlated with behavioral output. We, therefore, hypothesized that motor thalamic spiking coordinates motor system FPs and underlies FP-behavior correlations. To investigate this possibility, we recorded wideband motor thalamic (Mthal) electrophysiology as healthy rats performed a two-alternative forced-choice task. Delta (1–4 Hz), beta (13–30 Hz), low gamma (30–70 Hz), and high gamma (70–200 Hz) power were strongly modulated by task performance. As in the cortex, the delta phase was correlated with beta/low gamma power and reaction time. Most interestingly, subpopulations of Mthal neurons defined by their relationship to the behavior exhibited distinct relationships with FP features. Specifically, neurons whose activity was correlated with action selection and movement speed were entrained to delta oscillations. Furthermore, changes in their activity anticipated power fluctuations in beta/low gamma bands. These complex relationships suggest mechanisms for commonly observed FP-FP and spike-FP correlations, as well as subcortical influences on motor output.

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