Available only for arXiv papers.
Animals learn to carry out motor actions in specific sensory contexts to achieve goals. The striatum has been implicated in producing sensory-motor associations, yet its contribution to memory formation or recall is not clear. To investigate the contribution of striatum to these processes, mice were taught to associate a cue, consisting of optogenetic activation of striatum-projecting neurons in visual cortex, with forelimb reaches to access food pellets. As necessary to direct learning, striatal neural activity encoded both the sensory context and outcome of reaching. With training, the rate of cued reaching increased, but brief optogenetic inhibition of striatal activity arrested learning and prevented trial-to-trial improvements in performance. However, the same manipulation did not affect performance improvements already consolidated into short- (within an hour) or long-term (across days) memories. Hence, striatal activity is necessary for trial-to-trial improvements in task performance, leading to plasticity in other brain areas that mediate memory recall.