Sensorimotor transformations are mediated by premotor brain networks where individual neurons represent sensory, cognitive, and movement-related information. In the superior colliculus (SC), a central hub for producing visually-guided saccadic eye movements, many neurons are active during all three stages, emitting transient, high-frequency bursts of spikes during the sensory and motor events and exhibiting persistent, lower firing rate activity in-between the bursts. The mixed-selectivity to multiple dimensions of information exemplifies a potentially efficient mode of information representation by the nervous system, but it also raises crucial questions: What features differentiate the two bursts, and how does a decoder know precisely when to initiate a movement if its inputs are active at times when a movement is not desired (e.g., in response to sensory stimulation)? What information is encoded in the low-frequency activity, and how is it modulated during different cognitive demands? We reason that the answers to these questions lie not in the activity of individual neurons but rather across the population of active neurons and in the temporal dynamics.
Specific Aim 1 tests various neural mechanisms of movement initiation by quantifying features that differentiate the sensory and motor bursts across the SC population.
Specific Aim 2 focuses on the low-frequency activity that intervenes between the two bursts. We will use a dynamical systems approach to characterize how the neural trajectory evolves during sensorimotor transformation and how it differs for tasks with different cognitive loads. The ability to discriminate neural trajectories according to task demands indicates a potential mechanism by which different dimensions of information can be multiplexed into the same population of neurons.

Public Health Relevance

Patients suffering from disorders like schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Parkinson?s disease have difficulty mediating executive control and timing movement onset. We hypothesize that the temporal statistics of the neural activity during sensory to motor transformation is altered in such conditions. We propose to test specific mechanisms of movement initiation and identify how population activity evolves during sensorimotor transformation. This knowledge could also lead to improved biomimetic algorithms for controlling movement timing in neural prostheses.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Research Project (R01)
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Mechanisms of Sensory, Perceptual, and Cognitive Processes Study Section (SPC)
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Araj, Houmam H
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University of Pittsburgh
Biomedical Engineering
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United States
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Smalianchuk, Ivan; Jagadisan, Uday K; Gandhi, Neeraj J (2018) Instantaneous Midbrain Control of Saccade Velocity. J Neurosci 38:10156-10167
Jagadisan, Uday K; Gandhi, Neeraj J (2017) Removal of inhibition uncovers latent movement potential during preparation. Elife 6:
Jagadisan, Uday K; Gandhi, Neeraj J (2016) Disruption of Fixation Reveals Latent Sensorimotor Processes in the Superior Colliculus. J Neurosci 36:6129-40