In hereditary neurodegenerative Huntington disease (HD), early cognitive impairments before motor deficits have been hypothesized to result from dysfunction in the striatum and cortex before degeneration. To test this hypothesis, we examined the firing properties of single cells and local field activity in the striatum and cortex of pre–motor-symptomatic R6/1 transgenic mice while they were engaged in a procedural learning task, the performance on which typically depends on the integrity of striatum and basal ganglia. Here, we report that a dramatically diminished recruitment of the vulnerable striatal projection cells, but not local interneurons, of R6/1 mice in coding for the task, compared with WT littermates, is associated with severe deficits in procedural learning. In addition, both the striatum and cortex in these mice showed a unique oscillation at high γ-frequency. These data provide crucial information on the in vivo cellular processes in the corticostriatal pathway through which the HD mutation exerts its effects on cognitive abilities in early HD
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