Extracellular discharges from single neurons in the internal segment of the globus pallidus (GPi) were recorded and analyzed for rate changes associated with visually guided forearm rotations to four different targets. We sought to examine how GPi neurons contribute to movement preparation and execution. Unit discharge from 108 GPi neurons recorded in 35 electrode penetrations was aligned to the time of various behavioral events, including the onset of cued and return movements. In total, 39 of 108 GPi neurons (36%) were task-modulated, demonstrating statistically significant changes in discharge rate at various times between the presentation of visual cues and movement generation. Most often, strong modulation in discharge rate occurred selectively during either the cued (n = 32) or return (n = 2) phases of the task, although a few neurons (n = 5) were well-modulated during both movement phases. Of the 34 neurons that were modulated exclusively during cued or return movements, 50% (n = 17) were modulated similarly in association with movements to any target. The remaining 17 neurons exhibited considerable diversity in their discharge properties associated with movements to each target. Cued phases of behavior were always rewarded if executed correctly, whereas return phases were never rewarded. Overall, these data reveal that many GPi neurons discharged in a context-dependent manner, being modulated during cued, rewarded movements, but not during similar self-paced, unrewarded movements. When considered in the light of other observations, the context-dependence we have observed seems likely to be influenced by the animal's expectation of reward.
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