by Bettina C. Schwab, Daisuke Kase, Andrew Zimnik, Robert Rosenbaum, Marcello G. Codianni, Jonathan E. Rubin, Robert S. Turner
Task-related activity in the ventral thalamus, a major target of basal ganglia output, is often assumed to be permitted or triggered by changes in basal ganglia activity through gating- or rebound-like mechanisms. To test those hypotheses, we sampled single-unit activity from connected basal ganglia output and thalamic nuclei (globus pallidus-internus [GPi] and ventrolateral anterior nucleus [VLa]) in monkeys performing a reaching task. Rate increases were the most common peri-movement change in both nuclei. Moreover, peri-movement changes generally began earlier in VLa than in GPi. Simultaneously recorded GPi-VLa pairs rarely showed short-time-scale spike-to-spike correlations or slow across-trials covariations, and both were equally positive and negative. Finally, spontaneous GPi bursts and pauses were both followed by small, slow reductions in VLa rate. These results appear incompatible with standard gating and rebound models. Still, gating or rebound may be possible in other physiological situations: simulations show how GPi-VLa communication can scale with GPi synchrony and GPi-to-VLa convergence, illuminating how synchrony of basal ganglia output during motor learning or in pathological conditions may render this pathway effective. Thus, in the healthy state, basal ganglia-thalamic communication during learned movement is more subtle than expected, with changes in firing rates possibly being dominated by a common external source.