Motor learning is essential for our daily life because we are constantly developing and modifying our motor movements to facilitate adaptation to surrounding environments. The primary motor cortex is primarily linked to the initiation of voluntary movements, but more recently, it has also been shown to be one of the major sites for motor memory formation and storage. For example, when the motor cortex is damaged following a stroke, patients lose the ability to execute skilled movements that were formerly part of their normal daily life. Re-engaging motor learning in the damaged brain of stroke patients has been proposed to be one of the most effective ways to restore lost movements. Hence, a determination of the basic molecular mechanisms underlying motor learning will enhance the development of therapeutic strategies of countering the neural circuit dysfunctions underlying brain disorders.
The overarching goal of our lab’s research is to decipher the intricate interrelationships between molecular, structural, and functional dynamics of neural networks within the motor cortex while mice acquire and execute new motor movements in both normal and diseased brains. We aim to uncover the neural circuit dynamics underlying motor learning by examining three complementary aspects:
i) dissecting the functional roles and connectivity of local inhibitory circuits within the motor cortex
ii) identifying cell-type specific transcriptional programs underlying motor learning
iii) deciphering neural circuit aberrations underlying motor learning in diseased brains
We have established complementary methodologies to study these questions, including modified monosynaptic rabies-viral tracing, opto- and pharmaco- genetics, CRISPR/Cas9 gene manipulation, in vivo two-photon imaging in awake and behaving mice, different head-fixed motor learning tasks, and DeepLabCut to unbiasedly analyze animals’ movement variability during motor learning.
Head-fixed Motor Learning Task
Automatic Movement Detection
Monosynaptic Rabies Tracing
Chronic In vivo Two-Photon
Calcium Imaging and Spine Imaging
Scottish Rite Foundation