We cannot exclude this possibility, but three aspects of our results are inconsistent with an explanation based on attention. First, attention typically increases neuronal activity (Desimone and Duncan, 1995, Kastner and Ungerleider, 2000, Reynolds and Chelazzi, 2004, Reynolds and Heeger, 2009 and Treue and Maunsell, 1999), but our analysis shows that mean responses were not significantly different between naive and trained animals (Figure 3). Second, the learn more reduction in noise correlation with increased attention was also accompanied by decreased neuronal
variability (Fano factor, Cohen and Maunsell, 2009 and Mitchell et al., 2009). However, we did not find a significant difference in Fano factor between naive and trained animals. Finally, there was no difference in noise correlation between the fixation and discrimination tasks for a subset of pairs of neurons that were recorded during both tasks (Figure S6). This result
is consistent with an earlier study in which noise correlations Obeticholic Acid datasheet in area MT were found to be similar during a motion discrimination task and a visual fixation task (Zohary et al., 1994b). Any fluctuation in common inputs could cause correlated variability among target neurons. It is thus possible that training decreases the shared, common input to area MSTd, likely on a long timescale during learning (Chowdhury and DeAngelis, 2008). The effect of training on neural circuitry may have occurred at two levels. First, training may have altered the feed-forward sensory input to MSTd from other cortical and subcortical areas, without changing the average tuning properties of single neurons (Jenkins et al., 1990, Recanzone et al., 1993 and Weinberger, 1993). Second, Tolmetin training may have altered feedback connections to MSTd, including feedback from decision circuitry. Our results are consistent
with recent findings that perceptual learning does not substantially alter sensory cortical representations, but rather sculpts the decoding of sensory signals by decision circuitry (Dosher and Lu, 1999 and Law and Gold, 2008). If training alters the read out of heading signals from MSTd, this, in turn, may modify the shared feedback to MSTd neurons from downstream circuitry. It is currently not possible to discern which of these training-related changes contributes most to the reduction in correlated noise that we have observed. Although our data suggest that learning does not alter the sensory representation of heading in a manner that could account for the improvement in behavioral sensitivity with training, it is important to note that we cannot rule out the possibility that training altered the heading tuning and sensitivity of neurons in other brain areas that may also be involved in heading perception, such as area VIP (Zhang and Britten, 2011).