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Precision motor timing via scalar input fluctuations

Pang, Rich and Duffy, Alison and Bell, David and Torok, Zsofia and Fairhall, Adrienne (2022) Precision motor timing via scalar input fluctuations. . (Unpublished)

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Complex motor skills like playing piano require precise timing over long periods, without errors accumulating between subprocesses like the left and right hand movements. While biological models can produce motor-like sequences, how the brain quenches timing errors is not well understood. Motivated by songbirds, where the left and right brain nuclei governing song sequences do not connect but may receive low-dimensional thalamic input, we present a model where timing errors in an autonomous sequence generator are continually corrected by one-dimensional input fluctuations. We show in a spiking neural network model how such input can rapidly correct temporal offsets in a propagating spike pulse, recapitulating the precise timing seen in songbird brains. In a reduced, more general model, we show that such timing correction emerges when the spatial profile of the input over the sequence sufficiently reflects its temporal fluctuations, yielding time-locking attractors that slow advanced sequences and hasten lagging ones, up to the input timescale. Unlike models without fluctuating input, our model predicts anti-correlated durations of adjacent segments of the output sequence, which we verify in recorded zebra finch songs. This work provides a bioplausible picture of how temporal precision could arise in extended motor sequences and generally how low-dimensional input could continuously coordinate time-varying output signals.SignificanceComplex motor skills like playing piano require precision timing over long periods, often among multiple components like left and right muscle groups. Although brain-like network models can produce motor-like outputs, timing regulation is not well understood. We introduce a model, inspired by songbird brains, where imprecise timing in a cortical-like system is corrected by a single thalamic input regulating the sequential propagation, or tempo, of cortical activity. This model illuminates a relation between the input’s spatial structure and temporal variation that lets lagging activity hasten and advanced activity slow, which makes a prediction about output timing that we verify in real birdsong. This work reveals a simple, neuroplausible mechanism that may play a role in precision cortical or motor timing.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
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URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Pang, Rich0000-0002-2644-6110
Fairhall, Adrienne0000-0001-6779-953X
Additional Information:The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY 4.0 International license. This version posted May 19, 2022. We would like to acknowledge Nader Nikbakht and Jonathan Pillow for helpful discussions regarding the preparation of this manuscript. This work was supported by the Simons Foundation’s Simons Collaboration for the Global Brain and by NIH 1R01NS104925. The authors have declared no competing interest.
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Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220602-89974800
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Official Citation:Precision motor timing via scalar input fluctuations. Rich Pang, Alison Duffy, David Bell, Zsofia Torok, Adrienne Fairhall. bioRxiv 2022.05.18.492498; doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:115009
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:02 Jun 2022 23:03
Last Modified:02 Jun 2022 23:03

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