A Possible Role of Midbrain Dopamine Neurons in Short- and Long-Term Adaptation of Saccades to Position-Reward Mapping
Dopamine (DA) neurons respond to sensory stimuli that predict reward. To understand how DA neurons acquire such ability, we trained monkeys on a one-direction-rewarded version of memory-guided saccade task (1DR) only when we recorded from single DA neurons. In 1DR, position-reward mapping was changed across blocks of trials. In the early stage of training of 1DR, DA neurons responded to reward delivery; in the later stages, they responded predominantly to the visual cue that predicted reward or no reward (reward predictor) differentially. We found that such a shift of activity from reward to reward predictor also occurred within a block of trials after position-reward mapping was altered. A main effect of long-term training was to accelerate the within-block reward-to-predictor shift of DA neuronal responses. The within-block shift appeared first in the intermediate stage, but was slow, and DA neurons often responded to the cue that indicated reward in the preceding block. In the advanced stage, the reward-to-predictor shift occurred quickly such that the DA neurons' responses to visual cues faithfully matched the current position-reward mapping. Changes in the DA neuronal responses co-varied with the reward-predictive differentiation of saccade latency both in short-term (within-block) and long-term adaptation. DA neurons' response to the fixation point also underwent long-term changes until it occurred predominantly in the first trial within a block. This might trigger a switch between the learned sets. These results suggest that midbrain DA neurons play an essential role in adapting oculomotor behavior to frequent switches in position-reward mapping.