Whether it is for tying one's shoe laces or exploring the iPhone, we need to continuously practice new movements and acquire novel motor skills. Motor cortex is one of the key brain areas participating in learning and orchestrating such voluntary movements. Despite decades of research this brain area remains poorly understood. We use a series of innovative optical imaging methods, such as in vivo two-photon microscopy with fluorescent activity indicators, to record neuronal activity in the frontal cortex in the behaving animals and thereby gain a better understanding of the exact neuronal network dynamics underlying decision making and motor control. We work with mice since they are great manipulators and give access to a wide variety of important molecular tools and to well established models of motor diseases. These experiments in rodents will ultimately help us to understand some of the basic neuronal mechanisms that govern our own actions, enabling us to solve new challenges.
O'Connor DH, Huber D, Svoboda K. 2009. Reverse engineering the mouse brain. Nature 461:923-9.
Huber D, Petreanu L, Ghitani N, Ranade S, Hromádka T, Mainen Z, Svoboda K. 2008. Sparse optical microstimulation in barrel cortex drives learned behaviour in freely moving mice. Nature 451:61-4.
Petreanu L, Huber D, Sobczyk A, Svoboda K. 2007. Channelrhodopsin-2-assisted circuit mapping of long-range callosal projections. Nature Neuroscience 10:663-8.