The primary motor cortex has an important role in the precise execution of learned motor responses. During motor learning, synaptic efficacy between sensory and primary motor cortical neurons is enhanced, possibly involving long-term potentiation and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-specific glutamate receptor function. To investigate whether NMDA receptor in the primary motor cortex can act as a coincidence detector for activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength and associative learning, here we generate mice with deletion of the Grin1 gene, encoding the essential NMDA receptor subunit 1 (GluN1), specifically in the primary motor cortex. The loss of NMDA receptor function impairs primary motor cortex long-term potentiation in vivo. Importantly, it impairs the synaptic efficacy between the primary somatosensory and primary motor cortices and significantly reduces classically conditioned eyeblink responses. Furthermore, compared with wild-type littermates, mice lacking primary motor cortex show slower learning in Skinner-box tasks. Thus, primary motor cortex NMDA receptors are necessary for activity-dependent synaptic strengthening and associative learning.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)