Calcium Imaging Plus 3D Movement Tracking Reveals Intriguing Insights into Action Perception

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We have a special treat for you — two videos you can watch about Dr. Jonathan Whitlock’s research on action perception, action planning and action observation in the posterior parietal cortex. Dr. Whitlock is a part of the Inscopix community, and his lab uses our nVista large-scale calcium imaging system to look at action representation in rodents.

In his postdoctoral work, Dr. Whitlock originally wanted to know what contribution the parietal cortex made to navigation. He found certain cells in rodent posterior parietal cortex represented ongoing movement, and a subset of cells’ firing predicted future movements. This was reminiscent of work in monkeys showing activity in parietal cortex was predictive of movement, say of the eye or the hand. The rodent posterior parietal cortex sits in a homologous position in the brain to that seen in primates, and exhibits a robust representation of first-person actions. But what about representing the actions of others?

To explore these findings further, Dr. Whitlock’s group used the Inscopix nVista miniature microscope system to make surface recordings from a large number of neurons in the rodent parietal cortex while the animal was freely and naturally behaving. He combined in vivo calcium imaging recordings with a 3-D tracking system of the animal’s motion in real time. In doing so, he and his research group discovered how the parietal cortex represents not only first person movements, but also observed movements in other animals (think mirror neurons).

To find out more, check out this short video from SfN 2016. For a more in-depth presentation of his work, we hosted a Community Webinar in which Dr. Whitlock spoke about his research in motor planning and motor recognition in rodents. We hope you enjoy learning about this very interesting and innovative work!

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