Picower Special Seminar with Lina Marcela Carmona, PhD, "Cell type and Cell State Engagement During Motor Learning "

Thursday, March 23, 2023 at 10:00am to 11:00am

43 VASSAR ST, Cambridge, MA 02139

Picower Special Seminar with Lina Marcela Carmona, PhD

Thursday, March 23 at 10:00am

MIT Building 46, Picower Seminar Room (46-3310, Third Floor of Building 46)

Cell type and Cell State Engagement During Motor Learning 

Whether to grab a cookie or skillfully play piano, life requires movement. However, movements must first be learned. While it is now understood that learning encompasses distributed circuits, it is unclear how these adapt for skill attainment. We have been exploring two mechanisms which could mediate this process: (1) whether cell types are differentially recruited as learning progresses, and/or (2) whether cell states facilitate the necessary changes for motor learning.

To examine these ideas, we have focused on the primary motor cortex (M1) in mice. We developed a screen to label and molecularly profile active neuronal populations during motor learning and identified several cell types with significant enrichment at different learning stages. We then characterized the specific contribution of one late learning enriched type, the FoxP2+ corticothalamic neurons. An examination of the activity of this population demonstrated that, unlike other M1 neurons that positively correlate with movement, this population is suppressed during movement execution. Furthermore, preventing suppression of these neurons strongly perturbed movement execution, demonstrating the importance of this activity profile within the motor circuit.

My current work is now focused on the learning-induced cell states. By taking a more comprehensive examination of all the transcriptional changes identified in my initial screen, we are classifying differentially expressed genes into cellular pathways in a cell type specific manner with a particular emphasis on examining the role of engaged metabolic pathways. Ultimately, the goal is to delineate the establishment and contribution of cell states engaged throughout the motor system during motor learning and their changes with age.

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