A major goal of the lab is to understand how the brain represents pose and movement of the body through space, and how elementary motions are synthesized into meaningful behavior. To do this we utilize 3D tracking of freely moving rodents while recording from groups of neurons during natural behavior. We study rodents because they are agile and are amenable to large-scale neural recordings. We work hard to ensure they are healthy and happy for our experiments, which produces higher quality behavioral data. This approach has so far produced new insights into how the cortex, the outer-most structure of the brain, encodes 3D posture of the head and body during unrestrained movement.
(1) Mark the back and head of the rat using retro-reflective markers.
Neural correlates of natural behavior
Here is a short explanation of how we combined 3D tracking with neural recordings to quantify postural tuning in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) and frontal motor cortex (M2), areas critical for coordinating bodily movements through space. This work was just published in November 2018. A more complete, illustrated telling of this story by PhD student Bartul Mimica can be found here.