Motor sequence learning in rodents
Studying song learning in zebra finches has provided us with valuable insights into how neural circuits underlie complex motor learning, but to what extent do our findings apply to mammalian motor circuits? And more generally: How does the mammalian brain acquire and produce complex motor sequences? Using the viral and genetic techniques available in rodent animal models, combined with electrophysiological recordings and neural circuit manipulations gives us tremendous power and flexibility in manipulating and measuring from circuits involved
Our approach is to train rodents to generate complex motor sequences using operant conditioning paradigms. By manipulating circuit function using optogenetics, lesions, and pharmacolocial techniques, we explore the circuits involved in generating learned movement sequences. This combined with chronic recordings from populations of cells within targeted circuits during behavior allows us to describe at a mechanistic level how the mammalian nervous system acquires and executes learned motor behaviors.