Gonzalez Lab


Neurobiology of Motor Behaviors

Vertebrate behavior is characterized by movement, and for many species, the precise production of complex learned motor behaviors is essential to their survival. Human behaviors such as writing, talking or using tools rely on the intricate and precise movement of several muscles. Proper performance of these behaviors can take years of tutoring and practice and require specialized brain areas involved in memory, motor control, and sensory feedback. How do different brain regions integrate and relay information to generate complex motor behaviors? More importantly, how are these brain functions affected by noise, regulated by the cognitive state, and challenged by aging and disease? Addressing these fundamental questions in neuroscience will require novel technologies and experimental paradigms seeking to interrogate neuronal activity across multiple brain areas in animals performing complex learned motor behaviors.

Consequently, there is a significant need to develop a fundamental knowledge of how networks of neurons control behavior and how neurological disorders affect the activity of distributed neuronal networks. Our research investigates how learned motor behaviors are maintained over time and how cognitive states and neurological disorders challenge the brain and affect these behaviors. The central working hypothesis is that complex behaviors require accurate and efficient interplay between multiple brain areas. We further propose that disturbances of the fine-tuned integration and transfer of information between brain areas lead to the erroneous performance of complex learned tasks. In behaving animals, these disturbances can arise due to environmental, cognitive states, damage, and due to stochastic aspects of neuronal activity. Identifying the natural mechanism by which the brain minimizes and corrects disturbances in neuronal activity will provide a framework to understand how to develop corrective measures to prevent age and disease-related cognitive decline. The goal of our laboratory is to identify the fundamental mechanisms by which information controlling motor behaviors is acquired, stored, and updated by distributed networks of neuron. Ongoing research in our lab seeks to:

Dissect how aging and disease affect neuronal activity controlling recall and performance of motor behaviors.

Identify how sleep regulates learning and maintenance of motor behaviors.

Decipher the error correction mechanisms implemented by the brain during performance of complex motor behaviors.

Develop brain-machine interfaces to enhance learning and performance of complex behaviors.