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Journal Article

New modules are added to vibrissal premotor circuitry with the emergence of exploratory whisking

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Takatoh, J., Nelson, A., Zhou, X., Bolton, M. M., Ehlers, M. D., Arenkiel, B. R., et al. (2013). New modules are added to vibrissal premotor circuitry with the emergence of exploratory whisking. Neuron, 77(2), 346-360. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.010.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0019-0E1A-D
Rodents begin to use bilaterally coordinated, rhythmic sweeping of their vibrissae (“whisking”) for environmental exploration around two weeks after birth. Whether and how vibrissal control circuitry changes after birth is unknown, and relevant premotor circuitry remains poorly characterized. Using a modified rabies virus transsynaptic tracing strategy, we labeled neurons synapsing directly onto vibrissa facial motor neurons (vFMNs). Sources of potential excitatory, inhibitory, and modulatory vFMN premotor neurons, and differences between the premotor circuitry for vFMNs innervating intrinsic versus extrinsic vibrissal muscles, were systematically characterized. The emergence of whisking is accompanied by the addition of “new” sets of bilateral excitatory inputs to vFMNs from neurons in the lateral paragigantocellularis (LPGi). Furthermore, descending axons from the motor cortex directly innervate LPGi premotor neurons. Thus, neural modules well suited to facilitate the bilateral coordination and cortical control of whisking are added to premotor circuitry in parallel with the emergence of this exploratory behavior.