Date: February 14, 2019. 12:00
Location: CCU Seminar Room
Title: Dopamine neurons change their tuning according to courtship context in singing birds.
Affiliation: Cornell University, USA
Attending to mistakes while practicing alone provides opportunities for learning, but focusing on mistakes during audience-directed performance could distract from ongoing execution. It remains unknown how motor systems switch between practice and performance modes, and how evaluation systems process errors across distinct performance contexts. We recorded from striatal-projecting dopamine (DA) neurons as male songbirds transitioned from singing alone to singing female-directed courtship song. When singing alone, DA neurons encoded errors in predicted song quality: phasic suppressions followed worse-than-predicted song outcomes and phasic bursts followed better-than-predicted ones. Yet in the presence of the female, these performance error signals were gated off and DA neurons were instead phasically activated by specific interactions with the female. Mesostriatal DA neurons can thus dynamically change their tuning with changes in social context.