Corticothalamic (CT) neurons comprise the largest component of the descending sensory corticofugal pathway, but their contributions to brain function and behavior remain an unsolved mystery. To address the hypothesis that layer 6 (L6) CTs may be activated by extra-sensory inputs prior to anticipated sounds, we performed optogenetically targeted single-unit recordings and two-photon imaging of Ntsr1-Cre+ L6 CT neurons in the primary auditory cortex (A1) while mice were engaged in an active listening task. We found that L6 CTs and other L6 units began spiking hundreds of milliseconds prior to orofacial movements linked to sound presentation and reward, but not to other movements such as locomotion, which were not linked to an explicit behavioral task. Rabies tracing of monosynaptic inputs to A1 L6 CT neurons revealed a narrow strip of cholinergic and non-cholinergic projection neurons in the external globus pallidus, suggesting a potential source of motor-related input. These findings identify new pathways and local circuits for motor modulation of sound processing and suggest a new role for CT neurons in active sensing.
Auditory Corticothalamic Neurons Are Recruited by Motor Preparatory Inputs
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