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A multi-dimensional view on how neural populations control and adapt movement

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Abstract:

The analysis of neural dynamics in several brain cortices has consistently uncovered low-dimensional subspaces that capture a significant fraction of neural variability. These “neural manifolds” are spanned by specific patterns of correlated neural activity, the “neural modes.” I will discuss a model for neural control of movement in which the time-dependent activation of these neural modes, rather than the independent modulation of single neurons, is the generator of motor behavior.

I will first focus on the long-standing question of how the same population of neurons in primary motor cortex (M1) can cause a very rich set of movements. Single neuron activity is complex and heterogeneous and varies greatly across different behavioral tasks. Yet, the structure and even the temporal activation dynamics of some neural modes is remarkably well preserved across these different behaviors.

But not only can we perform many different movements, but also adapt them within a few attempts if the circumstances need it. Neural manifolds also provide a framework to understand how the motor cortices adapt movement. Even though it is widely assumed that changes in the cortical output to muscles underlies short-term motor learning, we observed no changes in the firing properties of single neurons that could explain behavioral adaptation. Instead, motor adaptation seems to be mediated by changes in the way upstream dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) recruits M1. We found that PMd exploits a specific region of its neural manifold that does not directly effect on M1, called the “null space,” to enable rapid changes in its ultimate output to M1. Critically, this mechanism can only be revealed through the neural manifold view of neural function.

These results support the view that neural modes, not single neurons, are the basic mechanism upon which cortical processing is built. Given that neural modes are also found in non-motor areas such as prefrontal cortex or visual cortex, similar mechanisms could explain how populations of neurons in different brain areas may flexibly perform different functions and adapt to changing conditions.

Referent/-in

Juan Álvaro Gallego
Spanish National Research Council and Northwestern University

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Kontakt

Swathi Sheshadri (Doctoral Student)

Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH

Neurobiology lab

37077 Göttingen

Tel: +49 551 3851-484

email: SSheshadri@dpz.eu

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