Circuit Mechanisms Underlying Sensori-motor Integration
Tianyi Mao, Vollum Institute, Oregon Health and Science University

Animal behaviors, from the simple movement of worms to the social behaviors of primates, are the outcome of highly specific and yet dynamic neuronal circuits. Determining neuronal circuitry at high precision and specificity is a key step toward understanding brain function and the prerequisite for revealing the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases and neurological disorders.

We have been studied the brain circuit related to motor control and sensori-motor interaction using mouse as a model system to take advantages of the genetic power and the recent effort in expanding the repertoire of the behaviors. Anatomical and behavioral studies suggest that interactions between sensory and motor cortex are important for sensation and sensory-guided voluntary movements. However, little is known about how information is integrated at the cellular level between these two cortical areas. We overcame the difficulties to study the long-range, functional connectivity in slice preparation by utilizing a recently developed technique taking advantages of the optogenetic tools. Subcellular ChR2-assisted circuit mapping (sCRACM) allows mapping functional connectivity in virtually any two brain areas at the subcellular resolution. Using sCRACM, we have mapped the long-range connections between primary sensory cortex and primary motor cortex. Our results suggest that cell properties in terms of their roles in the particular circuit, can be determined by their relative locations, and also by their projections targets. Our study is beginning to shed light on how whisker movement and sensation are integrated in order to produce haptic sensation and how such movement and be further modified by upstream brain structures.

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