The motor cortex is far from a stable conduit for motor commands and instead undergoes significant changes during learning. An understanding of motor cortex plasticity has been advanced greatly using rodents as experimental animals. Two major focuses of this research have been on the connectivity and activity of the motor cortex. The motor cortex exhibits structural changes in response to learning, and substantial evidence has implicated the local formation and maintenance of new synapses as crucial substrates of motor learning. This synaptic reorganization translates into changes in spiking activity, which appear to result in a modification and refinement of the relationship between motor cortical activity and movement. This review presents the progress that has been made using rodents to establish the motor cortex as an adaptive structure that supports motor learning.
Keywords: motor cortex; motor learning; movement; neural circuits; plasticity; rodents.