Reorganization of corticospinal output during motor learning

Nat Neurosci. 2017 Aug;20(8):1133-1141. doi: 10.1038/nn.4596. Epub 2017 Jul 3.


Motor learning is accompanied by widespread changes within the motor cortex, but it is unknown whether these changes are ultimately funneled through a stable corticospinal output channel or whether the corticospinal output itself is plastic. We investigated the consistency of the relationship between corticospinal neuron activity and movement through in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in mice learning a lever-press task. Corticospinal neurons exhibited heterogeneous correlations with movement, with the majority of movement-modulated neurons decreasing activity during movement. Individual cells changed their activity across days, which led to changed associations between corticospinal activity and movement. Unlike previous observations in layer 2/3, activity accompanying learned movements did not become more consistent with learning; instead, the activity of dissimilar movements became more decorrelated. These results indicate that the relationship between corticospinal activity and movement is dynamic and that the types of activity and plasticity are different from and possibly complementary to those in layer 2/3.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*