A Functional Cortical Network for Sensorimotor Sequence Generation
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Daniel O'Connor discusses his laboratory’s recent work on the sensorimotor control of complex tongue movements. The brain generates complex sequences of movements that can be flexibly reconfigured in real-time based on sensory feedback, but how this occurs is not fully understood. They developed a novel ‘sequence licking’ task in which mice directed their tongue to a target that moved through a series of locations. Mice could rapidly reconfigure the sequence online based on tactile feedback. Closed-loop optogenetics and electrophysiology revealed that tongue/jaw regions of somatosensory (S1TJ) and motor (M1TJ) cortex encoded and controlled tongue kinematics at the level of individual licks. Tongue premotor (anterolateral motor, ALM) cortex encoded intended tongue angle in a smooth manner that spanned individual licks and even whole sequences, and progress toward the reward that marked successful sequence execution. ALM activity regulated sequence initiation, but multiple cortical areas collectively controlled termination of licking. Their results define a functional cortical network for hierarchical control of sensory- and reward-guided orofacial sequence generation.