Cerebellar contributions to coordinated locomotion in mice

Gait ataxia, or uncoordinated walking, is one of the most prominent symptoms of cerebellar damage, but the mechanisms through which the cerebellum contributes to coordinated locomotion are not well understood. Both ataxic mouse mutants and the sophisticated genetic tools available for manipulating neural circuits in mice have the potential to help shed light on this problem. However, analyses of mouse gait have typically lacked the kind of detail about the precision and timing of limb movements that would be required for a full analysis of coordination. We have built a custom video tracking system (LocoMouse) for measuring and analysing overground locomotion in freely walking mice. The LocoMouse system automatically detects the position of paws, snout, tail, and body centre in all three spatial dimensions with high spatiotemporal resolution. We have used this system to establish a quantitative framework for coordinated locomotion in mice (Machado et al. 2015). This approach allows us to identify specific, cerebellum-dependent features of locomotor coordination and to probe circuit mechanisms supporting complex, whole-body movements.

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