Frequency Specific Optogenetic Stimulation of the Locus Coeruleus Induces Task-Relevant Plasticity in the Motor Cortex

Ching Tzu Tseng, Hailey F. Welch, Ashley L. Gi, Erica Mina Kang, Tanushree Mamidi, Sahiti Pydimarri, Kritika Ramesh, Alfredo Sandoval, Jonathan E. Ploski, Catherine A. Thorn

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The locus ceruleus (LC) is the primary source of neocortical noradrenaline, which is known to be involved in diverse brain functions including sensory perception, attention, and learning. Previous studies have shown that LC stimulation paired with sensory experience can induce task-dependent plasticity in the sensory neocortex and in the hippocampus. However, it remains unknown whether LC activation similarly impacts neural representations in the agranular motor cortical regions that are responsible for movement planning and production. In this study, we test whether optogenetic stimulation of the LC paired with motor performance is sufficient to induce task-relevant plasticity in the somatotopic cortical motor map. Male and female TH-Cre + rats were trained on a skilled reaching lever-pressing task emphasizing the use of the proximal forelimb musculature, and a viral approach was used to selectively express ChR2 in noradrenergic LC neurons. Once animals reached criterial behavioral performance, they received five training sessions in which correct task performance was paired with optogenetic stimulation of the LC delivered at 3, 10, or 30 Hz. After the last stimulation session, motor cortical mapping was performed using intracortical microstimulation. Our results show that lever pressing paired with LC stimulation at 10 Hz, but not at 3 or 30 Hz, drove the expansion of the motor map representation of the task-relevant proximal FL musculature. These findings demonstrate that phasic, training-paired activation of the LC is sufficient to induce experience-dependent plasticity in the agranular motor cortex and that this LC-driven plasticity is highly dependent on the temporal dynamics of LC activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1528232023
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 14 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience

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