Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Motor cortex shown to play active role in learning movement patterns


Skilled motor movements of the sort tennis players employ while serving a tennis ball or pianists use in playing a concerto, require precise interactions between the motor cortex and the rest of the brain. Neuroscientists had long assumed that the motor cortex functioned something like a piano keyboard.

"Every time you wanted to hear a specific note, there was a specific key to press," says Andrew Peters, a neurobiologist at UC San Diego's Center for Neural Circuits and Behavior. "In other words, every specific movement of a muscle required the activation of specific cells in the motor cortex because the main job of the motor cortex was thought to be to listen to the rest of the cortex and press the keys it's directed to press."

Cells in the motor cortex of mice display regions in which the neurons are active (in green) and regions in which neuron firing is inhibited (in red).

Credit: UC San Diego

But in a study published in this week's advance online publication of the journal Nature, Peters, the first author of the paper, and his colleagues found that the motor cortex itself plays an active role in learning new motor movements. In a series of experiments using mice, the researchers showed in detail how those movements are learned over time.

"Our finding that the relationship between body movements and the activity of the part of the cortex closest to the muscles is profoundly plastic and shaped by learning provides a better picture of this process," says Takaki Komiyama, an assistant professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the research team. "That's important, because elucidating brain plasticity during learning could lead to new avenues for treating learning and movement disorders, including Parkinson's disease."

With Simon Chen, another UC San Diego neurobiologist, the researchers monitored the activity of neurons in the motor cortex over a period of two weeks while mice learned to press a lever in a specific way with their front limbs to receive a reward.

"What we saw was that during learning, different patterns of activity—which cells are active, when they're active—were evident in the motor cortex," says Peters. "This ends up translating to different patterns of activity even for similar movements. Once the animal has learned the movement, similar movements are then accompanied by consistent activity. This consistent activity moreover is totally new to the animal: it wasn't used early in learning even with movements that were similar to the later movement."

"Early on," Peters says, "the animals will occasionally make movements that look like the expert movements they make after learning. The patterns of brain activity that accompany those similar early and late movements are actually completely different though. Over the course of learning, the animal generates a whole new set of activity in the motor cortex to make that movement. In the piano keyboard analogy, that's like using one key to make a note early on, but a different key to make the same note later."


The study was supported by grants from the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Pew Charitable Trusts, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Human Frontier Science Program and New York Stem Cell Foundation.

Kim McDonald | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Parkinson's Technology activity movement plastic specific

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>