Cell-Type-Specific Control of Brainstem Locomotor Circuits by Basal Ganglia

The basal ganglia (BG) are critical for adaptive motor control, but the circuit principles underlying their pathway-specific modulation of target regions are not well understood. Here, we dissect the mechanisms underlying BG direct and indirect pathway-mediated control of the mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR), a brainstem target of BG that is critical for locomotion. We optogenetically dissect the locomotor function of the three neurochemically distinct cell types within the MLR: glutamatergic, GABAergic, and cholinergic neurons. We find that the glutamatergic subpopulation encodes locomotor state and speed, is necessary and sufficient for locomotion, and is selectively innervated by BG. We further show activation and suppression, respectively, of MLR glutamatergic neurons by direct and indirect pathways, which is required for bidirectional control of locomotion by BG circuits. These findings provide a fundamental understanding of how BG can initiate or suppress a motor program through cell-type-specific regulation of neurons linked to specific actions.

Thomas K. Roseberry, A. Moses Lee, Arnaud L. Lalive, Linda Wilbrecht, Antonello Bonci, Anatol C. Kreitzer, Cell-Type-Specific Control of Brainstem Locomotor Circuits by Basal Ganglia, 64(3) Cell (Jan. 2016), http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674%2815%2901701-8

Identification of a Brainstem Circuit Regulating Visual Cortical State in Parallel with Locomotion

Sensory processing is dependent upon behavioral state. In mice, locomotion is accompanied by changes in cortical state and enhanced visual re- sponses. Although recent studies have begun to elucidate intrinsic cortical mechanisms underlying this effect, the neural circuits that initially couple locomotion to cortical processing are unknown. The mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR) has been shown to be capable of initiating running and is associated with the ascending reticular activating system. Here, we find that optogenetic stimulation of the MLR in awake, head-fixed mice can induce both locomotion and increases in the gain of cortical responses. MLR stimulation below the threshold for overt movement similarly changed cortical pro- cessing, revealing that MLR’s effects on cortex are dissociable from locomotion. Likewise, stimulation of MLR projections to the basal forebrain also enhanced cortical responses, suggesting a pathway linking the MLR to cortex. These studies demon- strate that the MLR regulates cortical state in parallel with locomotion.

A. Moses Lee, Jennifer L. Hoy, Antonello Bonci, Linda Wilbrecht, Michael P. Stryker, and Cristopher M. Niell, Identification of a Brainstem Circuit Regulating Visual Cortical State in Parallel with Locomotion, Neuron 83, 455–466, July 16, 2014, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2014.06.031

Transient stimulation of distinct subpopulations of striatal neurons mimics changes in action value

In changing environments, animals must adaptively select actions to achieve their goals. In tasks involving goal-directed action selection, striatal neural activity has been shown to represent the value of competing actions. Striatal representations of action value could potentially bias responses toward actions of higher value. However, no study to date has demonstrated the direct effect of distinct striatal pathways in goal-directed action selection. We found that transient optogenetic stimulation of dorsal striatal dopamine D1 and D2 receptor–expressing neurons during decision-making in mice introduced opposing biases in the distribution of choices. The effect of stimulation on choice was dependent on recent reward history and mimicked an additive change in the action value. Although stimulation before and during movement initiation produced a robust bias in choice behavior, this bias was substantially diminished when stimulation was delayed after response initiation. Together, our data suggest that striatal activity is involved in goal-directed action selection.

Lung-Hao Tai*, A Moses Lee*, Nora Benavidez, Antonello Bonci, Linda Wilbrecht, Transient stimulation of distinct subpopulations of striatal neurons mimics changes in action value Nature Neuroscience 15, 1281–1289, (2012) doi:10.1038/nn.3188 (Full Text)