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The brain decade in debate: VI. Sensory and motor maps: dynamics and plasticity

  • Author(s): Das, A.
  • Franca, J.G.
  • Gattass, R.
  • Kaas, J.H.
  • Nicolelis, M.A.L.
  • Timo-Iaria, C.
  • Vargas, C.D.
  • Weinberger, N.M.
  • Volchan, E.
  • et al.

This article is an edited transcription of a virtual symposium promoted by the Brazilian Society of Neuroscience and Behavior (SBNeC). Although the dynamics of sensory and motor representations have been one of the most studied features of the central nervous system, the actual mechanisms of brain plasticity that underlie the dynamic nature of sensory and motor maps are not entirely unraveled. Our discussion began with the notion that the processing of sensory information depends on many different cortical areas. Some of them are arranged topographically and others have non-topographic (analytical) properties. Besides a sensory component, every cortical area has an efferent output that can be mapped and can influence motor behavior. Although now behaviors might be related to modifications of the sensory or motor representations in a given cortical area, they can also be the result of the acquired ability to make new associations between specific sensory cues and certain movements, a type of learning known as conditioning motor learning. Many types of learning are directly related to the emotional or cognitive context in which a new behavior is acquired. This has been demonstrated by paradigms in which the receptive field properties of cortical neurons are modified when an animal is engaged in a given discrimination task or when a triggering feature is paired with an aversive stimulus. The role of the cholinergic input from the nucleus basalis to the neocortex was also highlighted as one important component of the circuits responsible for the context-dependent changes that can be induced in cortical maps.

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