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Haegens, Saskia; Vazquez, Yuriria; Zainos, Antonio; Alvarez, Manuel; Jensen, Ole; Romo, Ranulfo (2014)


Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111(17):E1797-E1805
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To explore the role of oscillatory dynamics of the somatosensory thalamocortical network in perception and decision making, we recorded the simultaneous neuronal activity in the ventral posterolateral nucleus (VPL) of the somatosensory thalamus and primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in two macaque monkeys performing a vibrotactile detection task. Actively detecting a vibrotactile stimulus and reporting its perception elicited a sustained poststimulus beta power increase in VPL and an alpha power decrease in S1, in both stimulus-present and stimulus-absent trials. These oscillatory dynamics in the somatosensory thalamocortical network depended on the behavioral context: they were stronger for the active detection condition than for a passive stimulation condition. Furthermore, contrasting stimulus-present vs. stimulus-absent responses, we found that poststimulus theta power increased in both VPL and S1, and alpha/beta power decreased in S1, reflecting the monkey's perceptual decision but not the motor response per se. Additionally, higher prestimulus alpha power in S1 correlated with an increased probability of the monkey reporting a stimulus, regardless of the actual presence of a stimulus. Thus, we found task-related modulations in oscillatory activity, not only in the neocortex but also in the thalamus, depending on behavioral context. Furthermore, oscillatory modulations reflected the perceptual decision process and subsequent behavioral response. We conclude that these early sensory regions, in addition to their primary sensory functions, may be actively involved in perceptual decision making.