Directional Reaching for Water as a Cortex-Dependent Behavioral Framework for Mice

Cell Rep. 2018 Mar 6;22(10):2767-2783. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.02.042.


Optogenetic tools and imaging methods for recording and manipulating brain activity have boosted the field of neuroscience in unprecedented ways. However, behavioral paradigms for mice lag behind those of primates, limiting the full potential of such tools. Here, we present an innovative behavioral framework in which head-fixed mice directionally reach for water droplets, similar to the primate "center-out" reaching task. Mice rapidly engaged in the task, performed hundreds of trials, and reached in multiple directions when droplets were presented at different locations. Surprisingly, mice used chemosensation to determine the presence of water droplets. Optogenetic inactivation of the motor cortex halted the initiation and rapidly diverted the trajectory of ongoing movements. Layer 2/3 two-photon imaging revealed robust direction selectivity in most reach-related neurons. Finally, mice performed directional reaching instructed by vibratotactile stimuli, demonstrating the potential of this framework for studying, in addition to motor control, sensory processing, and decision making.

Keywords: behavior; directional reaching; head-fixed; motor cortex; mouse; optogenetic inactivation; two-photon imaging; water.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Movement
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Water*


  • Water