Neuronal processes underlying the formation of new associations in the human brain are not yet well understood. Here human participants, implanted with depth electrodes in the brain, learned arbitrary associations between images presented in an ordered, predictable sequence. During learning we recorded from medial temporal lobe (MTL) neurons that responded to at least one of the pictures in the sequence (the preferred stimulus). We report that as a result of learning, single MTL neurons show asymmetric shifts in activity and start firing earlier in the sequence in anticipation of their preferred stimulus. These effects appear relatively early in learning, after only 11 exposures to the stimulus sequence. The anticipatory neuronal responses emerge while the subjects became faster in reporting the next item in the sequence. These results demonstrate flexible representations that could support learning of new associations between stimuli in a sequence, in single neurons in the human MTL.
Reddy, L., Poncet, M., Self, M. W., Peters, J. C., Douw, L., van Dellen, E., Claus, S., Reijneveld, J. C., Baayen, J. C., & Roelfsema, P. R. (2015). Learning of anticipatory responses in single neurons of the human medial temporal lobe. Nature Communications, 6, . https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms9556