Action specification in motor circuits

Year of award: 2023


  • Dr Ian Duguid

    University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Project summary

Executing appropriately timed, reproducible actions is essential for interacting with our environment and ultimately survival. The goal of this project is to determine the circuit mechanisms that control the speed, timing, and accuracy of voluntary limb movements, which we define as action specification. This is thought to involve the interaction of both cortico-basal ganglia- and cortico-cerebellar-thalamocortical circuits, with ventral thalamus acting as a central hub to link subcortical and cortical motor areas. However, a causal mechanistic understanding of how these circuits combine to control action specification remains unknown. By employing advanced optical and neural recording techniques, viral-based manipulations, in silico modelling and quantitative behaviour in mice, we will determine the mechanisms by which cortico-basal ganglia- and cortico-cerebellar-thalamocortical circuits combine to control limb kinematics, how activity in both circuits drives motor learning and adaptation (i.e. overcoming perturbations caused by changes in the environment or sensory feedback), and which circuit mechanisms generalise across forelimb motor behaviours. This will constitute an important step towards our goal of creating a biophysically detailed model of motor control.