Final Report Summary - SENSORIMOTOR (Synaptic Mechanisms of Cortical Sensorimotor Integration)
Sensory perception is an active process involving complex context-dependent integration of incoming sensory information with learned associations and different motivations. The research carried out funded by this ERC grant investigated the synaptic mechanisms and neuronal circuits underlying the transformation of sensory input into subjective sensory percepts, decisions and goal-directed behaviour. Sensory perception is typically thought to begin in the neocortex, and investigating mice, we found evidence supporting a key role for primary somatosensory cortex in whisker sensory processing, whereas frontal cortex played a greater role in decision/motor-planning. The neocortex consists of an intricate network of excitatory and inhibitory neurons, which can be subdivided into different types. We found strong evidence supporting distinct roles for different types of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in a simple goal-directed sensorimotor transformation. Specifically, our research indicated that excitatory neurons in primary somatosensory cortex projecting to secondary somatosensory cortex carried stronger decision/motor-planning signals than intermingled neurons projecting to primary motor cortex. We furthermore found that a subtype of inhibitory GABAergic neurons expressing parvalbumin appeared to contribute to gating sensory processing in primary somatosensory cortex. Our research funded by this ERC grant has therefore advanced our understanding of cortical circuit function in behaving mice.