Cortical and striatal circuits together encode transitions in natural behavior

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Science Advances  09 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 41, eabc1173
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc1173


In natural behavior, we fluidly change from one type of activity to another in a sequence of motor actions. Corticostriatal circuits are thought to have a particularly important role in the construction of action sequences, but neuronal coding of a sequential behavior consisting of different motor programs has not been investigated at the circuit level in corticostriatal networks, making the exact nature of this involvement elusive. Here, we show, by analyzing spontaneous self-grooming in rats, that neuronal modulation in motor cortex and dorsal striatum is strongly related to transitions between behaviors. Our data suggest that longer action sequences in rodent grooming behavior emerge from stepwise control of individual behavioral transitions, where future actions are encoded differently depending on current motor state. This state-dependent motor coding was found to differentiate between rare behavioral transitions and as opposed to more habitual sequencing of actions.

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