Biased competition in the absence of input bias revealed through corticostriatal computation


Classical accounts of biased competition require an input bias to resolve the competition between neuronal ensembles driving downstream processing. However, flexible and reliable selection of behaviorally relevant ensembles can occur with unbiased stimulation: striatal D1 and D2 spiny projection neurons (SPNs) receive balanced cortical input, yet their activity determines the choice between GO and NO-GO pathways in the basal ganglia. We here present a corticostriatal model identifying three mechanisms that rely on physiological asymmetries to effect rate- and time-coded biased competition in the presence of balanced inputs. First, tonic input strength determines which one of the two SPN phenotypes exhibits a higher mean firing rate. Second, low-strength oscillatory inputs induce higher firing rate in D2 SPNs but higher coherence between D1 SPNs. Third, high-strength inputs oscillating at distinct frequencies can preferentially activate D1 or D2 SPN populations. Of these mechanisms, only the latter accommodates observed rhythmic activity supporting rule-based decision making in prefrontal cortex. [Code]

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences