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Task-specific modulation of corticospinal neuron activity during motor learning in mice
Motor skill learning relies on the plasticity of the primary motor cortex as task acquisition drives cortical motor network remodeling. Large-scale cortical remodeling of evoked motor outputs occurs during the learning of corticospinal-dependent prehension behavior, but not simple, non-dexterous tasks. Here we determine the response of corticospinal neurons to two distinct motor training paradigms and assess the role of corticospinal neurons in the execution of a task requiring precise modulation of forelimb movement and one that does not. In vivo calcium imaging in mice revealed temporal coding of corticospinal activity coincident with the development of precise prehension movements, but not more simplistic movement patterns. Transection of the corticospinal tract and optogenetic regulation of corticospinal activity show the necessity for patterned corticospinal network activity in the execution of precise movements but not simplistic ones. Our findings reveal a critical role for corticospinal network modulation in the learning and execution of precise motor movements.