Motor cortex is considered the final cortical output in a large network binding sensation and action. However, recent studies clearly indicate that visuomotor processes do not follow a simple serial processing from sensory to motor areas. Rather, they occur in parallel in multiple areas, and very early visual cue anticipation and processing can be observed in motor areas during visuomotor tasks [Confais et al. 2012; Kilavik et al. 2010, 2014]. Furthermore, the cerebral cortex is organized into multiple layers comprising largely distinct distributions of incoming and outgoing anatomical projections. In motor cortex, the superficial layers receive the majority of sensory inputs and have their main outward projections to local and distant cortical regions. The deep motor cortical layers project to sub-cortical regions and the spinal cord. Despite this detailed knowledge about the anatomical structure of visuomotor networks, the functional roles of different (motor) cortical regions and layers in visuomotor behavior remain largely unknown.
In this project we perform recordings in multiple motor cortical areas in macaque monkeys trained in visuomotor tasks. We use linear (laminar) electrode arrays, which enables simultaneous recordings from all cortical layers. This allows unprecedented exploration of the dynamics within motor cortical networks during visuomotor behavior.
The student will learn how to train macaque monkeys in visuomotor tasks and to record intra-cortical laminar neuronal activity. She/he will also analyze neuronal spiking activity or local field potentials (LFPs), to study task-related functional specializations of different motor cortical areas and cortical layers. Students with a background in biology, neuroscience, physics or engineering are particularly encouraged to apply.
Confais J, Kilavik BE, Ponce-Alvarez A, Riehle A (2012) On the anticipatory pre-cue activity in motor cortex. J Neurosci 32: 15359-68
Kilavik BE, Confais J, Ponce-Alvarez A, Diesmann M, Riehle A (2010) Evoked potentials in motor cortical local field potentials reflect task timing and behavioral performance. J Neurophysiol 104: 2338-2351
Kilavik BE, Confais J, Riehle A (2014) Signs of timing in motor cortex during movement preparation and cue anticipation. Adv Exp Med Biol 829: 121-142