Cortex-dependent corrections as the tongue reaches for and misses targets

Nature. 2021 Jun;594(7861):82-87. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03561-9. Epub 2021 May 19.


Precise tongue control is necessary for drinking, eating and vocalizing1-3. However, because tongue movements are fast and difficult to resolve, neural control of lingual kinematics remains poorly understood. Here we combine kilohertz-frame-rate imaging and a deep-learning-based neural network to resolve 3D tongue kinematics in mice drinking from a water spout. Successful licks required corrective submovements that-similar to online corrections during primate reaches4-11-occurred after the tongue missed unseen, distant or displaced targets. Photoinhibition of anterolateral motor cortex impaired corrections, which resulted in hypometric licks that missed the spout. Neural activity in anterolateral motor cortex reflected upcoming, ongoing and past corrective submovements, as well as errors in predicted spout contact. Although less than a tenth of a second in duration, a single mouse lick exhibits the hallmarks of online motor control associated with a primate reach, including cortex-dependent corrections after misses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Attention*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Deep Learning
  • Drinking*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Tongue / physiology*
  • Water


  • Water