Skilled motor behavior requires rapidly integrating external sensory input with information about internal state to decide which movements to make next. Using machine learning approaches for high-resolution kinematic analysis, we uncover the logic of a rapid decision underlying sensory-guided locomotion in mice. After detecting obstacles with their whiskers mice select distinct kinematic strategies depending on a whisker-derived estimate of obstacle location together with the position and velocity of their body. Although mice rely on whiskers for obstacle avoidance, lesions of primary whisker sensory cortex had minimal impact. While motor cortex manipulations affected the execution of the chosen strategy, the decision-making process remained largely intact. These results highlight the potential of machine learning for reductionist analysis of naturalistic behaviors and provide a case in which subcortical brain structures appear sufficient for mediating a relatively sophisticated sensorimotor decision.
Warren Richard A, Zhang Qianyun, Hoffman Judah R, Li Edward Y, Hong Y Kate, Bruno Randy M, Sawtell Nathaniel B
barrel cortex, decision-making, locomotion, motor cortex, mouse, neuroscience, whiskers