Motor control is a basic but fundamentally important aspect of human and animal behaviour. Descending motor output from cortical and brainstem motor areas shape the activity of spinal cord circuits to execute different types of movement from simple locomotion to complex, dexterous tasks such as reaching or grasping, and disruption to these pathways can lead to severe motor deficits and loss of motor control.
Over the past century significant advances have been made in understanding how cortical and brainstem motor areas coordinate their activities to generate high-level motor control. But how behaviourally relevant patterns of motor commands are generated in the main output layer (L5) of primary motor cortex (M1), and the extent to which M1 output shapes skilled forelimb movements remains largely unresolved.
Ian and his team will explore how motor cortical output shapes task performance in mice trained to execute a cued forelimb lever push-pull task. This task is of particular interest as it provides an experimentally tractable model of complex motor coordination that facilitates the use of in vivo 2-photon imaging, whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology and cell-selective optogenetic manipulation techniques.
By employing a multi-level cellular and systems neuroscience approach their goal is to decipher the single cell and circuit computations underpinning cortical motor control.