The behavioral changes that comprise operant learning are associated with plasticity in early sensory cortices as well as with modulation of gene expression, but the connection between the behavioral, electrophysiological, and molecular changes is only partially understood. We specifically manipulated c-Fos expression, a hallmark of learning-induced synaptic plasticity, in auditory cortex of adult mice using a novel approach based on RNA interference. Locally blocking c-Fos expression caused a specific behavioral deficit in a sound discrimination task, in parallel with decreased cortical experience-dependent plasticity, without affecting baseline excitability or basic auditory processing. Thus, c-Fos-dependent experience-dependent cortical plasticity is necessary for frequency discrimination in an operant behavioral task. Our results connect behavioral, molecular and physiological changes and demonstrate a role of c-Fos in experience-dependent plasticity and learning.
Year of publication
Cerebral Cortex, Volume 28, Issue 5, Pages 1645–1655