Simon Chen, Ph.D., of the University of Ottawa will present a lecture entitled: Dissecting Neural Circuits Underlying Motor Learning in Normal and Disease Mouse Models.
Abstract: Mammals exhibit an incredible amount of flexibility in motor control, which is believed to be due to the remarkable ability of brain circuits to rapidly undergo structural and functional plasticity to fluidly modifying body movements through learning. Disrupting these processes can often lead to impaired motor learning in both normal and diseased conditions. Our lab research focuses on bridging the gap between cellular and molecular signaling underlying the plasticity of neural circuits involved in motor skill learning. In the first part of the talk, I will show you some of our new findings on the cell-type specific roles of transcriptionally Npas4-defined neural ensembles in motor learning, using chronic in vivo two-photon imaging in head-fixed behaving mice. In the second part of the talk, I will present you a study, in which we examined mice with a syntenic deletion of chromosome 16p11.2, a common copy number variation associated with ASD. We found 16p11.2 deletion mice display a delay in motor learning, which reminiscent of the motor learning-related deficits in children with ASD, without showing gross movement deficits. In addition, we identified a dysfunctional locus coeruleus noradrenergic (LC-NA) neuromodulatory system that leads to abnormal structural and functional changes in the motor cortex, which resulted in delayed motor learning in the 16p11.2 deletion mice.