We learn from our experience but the underlying neuronal mechanisms incorporating past information to facilitate learning is relatively unknown. Specifically, which cortical areas encode history-related information and how is this information modulated across learning? To study the relationship between history and learning, we continuously imaged cortex-wide calcium dynamics as mice learn to use their whiskers to discriminate between two different textures. We mainly focused on comparing the same trial type with different trial history, that is, a different preceding trial. We found trial history information in barrel cortex (BC) during stimulus presentation. Importantly, trial history in BC emerged only as the mouse learned the task. Next, we also found learning-dependent trial history information in rostrolateral (RL) association cortex that emerges before stimulus presentation, preceding activity in BC. Trial history was also encoded in other cortical areas and was not related to differences in body movements. Interestingly, a binary classifier could discriminate trial history at the single trial level just as well as current information both in BC and RL. These findings suggest that past experience emerges in the cortex around the time of learning, starting from higher-order association area RL and propagating down (i.e., top-down projection) to lower-order BC where it can be integrated with incoming sensory information. This integration between the past and present may facilitate learning.
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