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Cellular mechanisms underlying behavioral state-dependent bidirectional modulation of motor cortex output

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1319–1330
JournalCell Reports
Issue number8
Early online date14 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2015


Neuronal activity in primary motor cortex (M1) correlates with behavioral state, but the cellular mechanisms underpinning behavioral state-dependent modulation of M1 output remain largely unresolved. Here, we performed in vivo patch-clamp recordings from layer 5B (L5B) pyramidal neurons in awake mice during quiet wakefulness and self-paced, voluntary movement. We show that L5B output neurons display bidirectional (i.e., enhanced or suppressed) firing rate changes during movement, mediated via two opposing subthreshold mechanisms: (1) a global decrease in membrane potential variability that reduced L5B firing rates (L5Bsuppressed neurons), and (2) a coincident noradrenaline-mediated increase in excitatory drive to a subpopulation of L5B neurons (L5Benhanced neurons) that elevated firing rates. Blocking noradrenergic receptors in forelimb M1 abolished the bidirectional modulation of M1 output during movement and selectively impaired contralateral forelimb motor coordination. Together, our results provide a mechanism for how noradrenergic neuromodulation and network-driven input changes bidirectionally modulate M1 output during motor behavior.

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