Induction of BDNF expression in layer II/III and layer V neurons of the motor cortex is essential for motor learning

J Neurosci. 2020 Jul 10;JN-RM-0288-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0288-20.2020. Online ahead of print.


Motor learning depends on synaptic plasticity between corticostriatal projections and striatal medium spiny neurons. Retrograde tracing from the dorsolateral striatum reveals that both layer II/III and layer V neurons in the motor cortex express Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as a potential regulator of plasticity in corticostriatal projections in male and female mice. The number of these BDNF expressing cortical neurons and levels of BDNF protein are highest in juvenile mice when adult motor patterns are shaped, while BDNF levels in the adult are low. When mice are trained by physical exercise in the adult, BDNF expression in motor cortex is re-induced especially in layer II/III projection neurons. Reduced expression of cortical BDNF in 3-month-old mice results in impaired motor learning while space memory is preserved. These findings suggest that activity regulates BDNF expression differentially in layer II/III and V striatal afferents from motor cortex and that cortical BDNF is essential for motor learning.Impact Statement:Motor learning in mice depends on corticostriatal BDNF supply, and regulation of BDNF expression during motor learning is highest in corticostriatal projection neurons in cortical layer II/III.