Hand and arm manual dexterity is a hallmark of humans and non-human primates. While rodents are less dexterous than primates, they provide powerful models for testing neural circuit function in behavioral output, including dexterous behaviors. In rodents, the single pellet reach task has been used extensively to study both dexterous forelimb motor learning as well as recovery from injury; however, mice exhibit high variability in task acquisition in comparison to rats and a significant percentage fail to learn the task. We have created a recessed version of the task that requires greater dexterity. This subtle modification increases both task difficulty as well as the proportion of mice that show an improvement with training. Furthermore, motor cortex inactivation shows a greater effect on the execution of the recessed forelimb reach task, with distinct effects on reach targeting vs grasping components depending on the timing of inhibitory activation. Kinematic analysis revealed differences in reach targeting upon transient cortical inhibition prior to reach onset. In summary, the recessed single pellet reach task provides a robust assessment of forelimb dexterity in mice and a tool for studying skilled motor acquisition and execution.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience