Reporting checklist for the paper "Mouse frontal cortex nonlinearly encodes sensory, choice and outcome signals"
ARRIVE Essential 10 checklist for the paper "Mouse frontal cortex nonlinearly encodes sensory, choice and outcome signals"
Frontal area MOs (secondary motor area) is a key brain structure in rodents for making decisions based on sensory evidence and on reward value. In behavioral tasks, its neurons can encode sensory stimuli, upcoming choices, expected rewards, ongoing actions, and recent outcomes. However, the information encoded, and the nature of the resulting code, may depend on the task being performed. We recorded MOs population activity using two-photon calcium imaging, in a task requiring mice to integrate sensory evidence with reward value. Mice turned a wheel to report the location of a visual stimulus following a delay period, to receive a reward whose size varied over trial blocks. MOs neurons encoded multiple task variables, but not all of those seen in other tasks. In the delay period, the MOs population strongly encoded the stimulus side but did not significantly encode the reward-size block. A correlation of MOs activity with upcoming choice could be explained by a common effect of stimulus on those two correlates. After the wheel turn and the feedback, the MOs population encoded choice side and choice outcome jointly and nonlinearly according to an exclusive-or (XOR) operation. This nonlinear operation would allow a downstream linear decoder to infer the correct choice side (i.e., the side that would have been rewarded) even on zero contrast trials, when there had been no visible stimulus. These results indicate that MOs neurons flexibly encode some but not all variables that determine behavior, depending on task. Moreover, they reveal that MOs activity can reflect a nonlinear combination of these behavioral variables, allowing simple linear inference of task events that would not have been directly observable.