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Sensory-Motor Transformation in a Selective Detection Task in Mice

Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

In our everyday lives, we receive information from our environment and respond to this received information by performing motor actions. A transformation between sensory information and motor action that is not a mere reflex, occurs inside our brain. Most of our goal-directed behavior involves this transformation, which may become impaired in different neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, it becomes important to know where and how this transformation happens in the brain. I trained mice in a whisker-based selective detection task to discover mechanisms of the sensory-motor transformation. In this type of behavior, mice learned to selectively respond to a brief whisker stimulation by licking a waterspout. Using widefield calcium imaging during task performance, my colleagues revealed regions in the cortex that became active during sensory and motor behavior. I performed whisker imaging to give insights about the mouse behavior as well as verifying the temporal limitations of widefield calcium imaging using recordings of local field potentials (Chapter 2). Among active regions in frontal cortex, I localized the site of transformation to the whisker motor cortex using single unit recording and advanced data analysis (Chapter 3). Importantly, I discovered a subcortical site of sensory-motor transformation in the dorsolateral striatum, residing down-stream of the whisker motor cortex (Chapter 4). Thus, my research describes a network composed of cortical and subcortical regions involved in sensory-motor transformation. Our findings may contribute towards developing therapeutics that target the motor cortex and dorsolateral striatum in health conditions that impair these regions and sensory and motor behavior in general.

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