Lay summary
Sensory information is actively gathered by animals. For example, we make eye movements to look at points of interest in the world around us. Through these self-generated movements we therefore determine a large part of the sensory information falling upon the retina. Similarly for touch, we actively move our fingers to explore the shape of objects and to feel their textures. Normal sensory perception therefore clearly involves important coordination of sensory processing with motor control.Important aspects of sensory perception depend upon the neocortex and the activity of neurons within the neocortical microcircuits is thought to underlie the impressive processing power of the mammalian brain.In this project we will explore how primary and secondary somatosensory cortices interact together with motor cortex in order to further our understanding of sensorimotor integration in the mouse. Studying mice enables investigation of underlying genetic determinants, which will be of increasing importance over the next decades as we begin to understand causal mechanisms of brain function and brain diseases.We will focus our research on cortical areas involved in processing tactile information from the mystacial vibrissae, which form an important sensory modality for mice. We will develop techniques for multicolor fluorescent labelling of neurons in primary somatosensory barrel cortex, with one color for neurons projecting to secondary somatosensory cortex and another color for neurons projecting to motor cortex. We will study the structure of these neurons in terms of somatic locations, dendritic structure, axonal structure and synaptic structure. We will also study the functional operation of these different classes of neurons to investigate if they have different activities during different behaviours. Finally, we will examine if they change their structure and function in different ways following experimental manipulations to induce plasticity.The project is therefore aimed at deepening our understanding of sensorimotor coordination in the mammalian brain through highly specific and detailed investigations. The research will shed light on fundamental aspects of brain function, processes which may well be affected by a large number of brain diseases.