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“Action representation in rodent parietal cortex”
Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Norway
Every day of our lives, our brains continuously plan and execute goal-directed behaviors, and without any effort we are readily aware of the behavior and actions of others around us. There is a broad consensus that action planning takes place in the brain between the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) and frontal motor cortices, and that these same regions facilitate action understanding via “mirror” neurons, which are activated whether an action is performed or merely observed. It is known that parietal and frontal motor areas of the mouse brain exhibit motor planning properties, but whether these same regions represent observed actions in a social context has not yet been investigated. The central focus of my research program is therefore to study how cell populations in cortex represent actions in both 1st and 3rd person. Two ongoing projects I will describe include (i) the combined use of in vivo calcium imaging in PPC with 3D tracking to study the cortical representation of whole-body movement in freely behaving mice, and (ii) imaging population activity while animals perform and then observe cohorts perform a pellet reaching task. Our goal is to build a deeper understanding of how cell ensembles in PPC encode natural behaviors whether they are performed or perceived.