Cell-Type-Specific Sensorimotor Processing in Striatal Projection Neurons during Goal-Directed Behavior
Goal-directed sensorimotor transformation drives important aspects of mammalian behavior. The striatum is thought to play a key role in reward-based learning and action selection, receiving glutamatergic sensorimotor signals and dopaminergic reward signals. Here, we obtain whole-cell membrane potential recordings from the dorsolateral striatum of mice trained to lick a reward spout after a whisker deflection. Striatal projection neurons showed strong task-related modulation, with more depolarization and action potential firing on hit trials compared to misses. Direct pathway striatonigral neurons, but not indirect pathway striatopallidal neurons, exhibited a prominent early sensory response. Optogenetic stimulation of direct pathway striatonigral neurons, but not indirect pathway striatopallidal neurons, readily substituted for whisker stimulation evoking a licking response. Our data are consistent with direct pathway striatonigral neurons contributing a "go'' signal for goal-directed sensorimotor transformation leading to action initiation.