In a sluggish haze, reaching out and taking the coffee cup next to you appears to occur on autopilot. But your caffeine-deprived brain is functioning hard. It’s gathering sensory details and other types of feedback – hints about where your arm is in space relative to the mug – and sending it to your motor cortex. Then, the motor cortex projects the next movement and determines your muscles to do it.
A recent study on mice is analyzing the role of those feedback signs entering the motor cortex, ordering how and when they’re required to guide prompt actions like grasping. That’s been an enormous question, shows research co-author Britton Sauerbrei, an associate from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus. Some inactive circuits can provide patterned, rhythmic output without supported input. Just as one tap from a rider can make a horse into a trot, these “central pattern generators” can help animals swim, walk, and fly without ongoing simulation. But not the motor cortex, it seems so.
Inputs to the Motor Cortex Can Support Agile Actions in Mice
Britton Sauerbrei, detailed: “What we show is the motor cortex is fundamentally different from that. You can’t just give the cortex a little kick and have it take off and generate that pattern on its own.”
So, the motor cortex requires to receive feedback throughout the whole movement, Sauerbrei and his team state on December 25. Also, he and his team trained mice to reach for and take a food pellet, a behavior that depends on the motor cortex. In some animals, for example, they enabled off the thalamus, a switchboard in the brain that manages sensory details and other types of feedback to and from the cortex. When the researchers stopped the signs resulting from the motor cortex before the mice start to reach, the animals didn’t begin any action. And when incoming signals were stopped mid-reach, mice ended moving their paw closer to the pellet.