Two papers published in Nature on motor cortex cell types and circuits


Two papers published this week in Nature! These papers detail our efforts to understand the cell types and circuits of the motor cortex in collaboration with the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

The first study is our collaborator Bosiljka Tasic’s opus on cortical cell types.  Deep sequencing of 20,000 neurons across cortical areas revealed more than one hundred different cell types classified based on the genes they express and describes how they vary across cortical areas.

In the second study, we did a deep dive into the gene expression patterns, brain-wide connectivity, and function of pyramidal tract neurons – the ‘output neurons’ of the motor cortex (pictured on the cover).  Remarkably, we find that the pyramidal tract – the focus of hundreds of studies for more than half a century – is really two distinct pathways each involved in different aspects of the control of movement.

Here’s more about these projects from Nature, Scientific American, HHMI, and the Allen Institute!

New paper on cerebellar involvement in motor planning


A cortico-cerebellar loop for motor planning

Zhenyu Gao, Courtney Davis, Alyse M. Thomas, Michael N. Economo, Amada M. Abrego, Karel Svoboda, Chris I De Zeeuw, Nuo Li

New work spearheaded by Gao (Erasmus University MC) and Nuo (Baylor College of Medicine) came out today in Nature.  This work implicates the cerebellum in motor planning in addition to its long-appreciated roles in controlling the timing of movement and in correcting errors.  These findings underscore the need to expand beyond studies focused on single brain regions in isolation to understand how complex behaviors arise.