Control of locomotor speed, arousal, and hippocampal theta rhythms by the nucleus incertus

Nat Commun. 2020 Jan 14;11(1):262. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-14116-y.


Navigation requires not only the execution of locomotor programs but also high arousal and real-time retrieval of spatial memory that is often associated with hippocampal theta oscillations. However, the neural circuits for coordinately controlling these important processes remain to be fully dissected. Here we show that the activity of the neuromedin B (NMB) neurons in the nucleus incertus (NI) is tightly correlated with mouse locomotor speed, arousal level, and hippocampal theta power. These processes are reversibly suppressed by optogenetic inhibition and rapidly promoted by optogenetic stimulation of NI NMB neurons. These neurons form reciprocal connections with several subcortical areas associated with arousal, theta oscillation, and premotor processing. Their projections to multiple downstream stations regulate locomotion and hippocampal theta, with the projection to the medial septum being particularly important for promoting arousal. Therefore, NI NMB neurons functionally impact the neural circuit for navigation control according to particular brains states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurokinin B / analogs & derivatives
  • Neurokinin B / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Optogenetics
  • Raphe Nuclei / cytology
  • Raphe Nuclei / physiology*
  • Septum of Brain / physiology
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology
  • Theta Rhythm


  • Neurokinin B
  • neuromedin B