Dr. Anna Cavaccini and Dr. James Dooley share insights into the development of rodent sensorimotor neuronal circuits during early postnatal life in wakefulness and REM sleep.

In the last decades, electrophysiological and imaging-based approaches provided significant new insights into the mechanisms of neuronal development. Nevertheless, many important questions remain unanswered. How does the fine control of a motor output develop? How does sensorimotor integration in the early and subsequent phases of brain development shape behavior? How does sensorimotor development evolve in awake and sleeping states? What role do myoclonic twitches play in this process?

Answering these questions requires performing high-precision tests in the brain of non-anesthetized animals across sleep and wake during the early stages of their postnatal development. Such tests require head-fixation apparatus suitable for neonatal and juvenile rodents. The Mobile HomeCage combines a stable head-fixation with an air-lifted cage that closely resembles laboratory rodents’ natural habitat – an optimal platform for studying early postnatal brain development.

In this webinar, Dr. Cavaccini (Prof. Karayannis’s lab at the Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich) and Dr. Dooley (Prof. Blumberg’s lab at the University of Iowa), share their insights into the development of rodent sensorimotor neuronal circuits during early postnatal life. They elucidate the cortical and subcortical mechanisms involved in the development of sensorimotor circuitry during wakefulness (in a mouse model) and REM sleep (in a rat model).

Key Takeaways

Dr. Anna Cavaccini:

  • Anatomical and functional changes occur at the striatal level before and after the onset of different sensory modalities
  • Locomotor activity changes throughout the early development and it correlates with the striatal function
  • Sensory information coming from whiskers affects the locomotion and striatal function before and after the onset of different sensory modalities

Dr. James Dooley:

  • Myoclonic twitches in REM sleep continue to trigger cortical and thalamic activity beyond the early postnatal period
  • Twitch-related thalamic activity is spatiotemporally refined by the third postnatal week
  • Motor thalamus activity reflects an internal model of movement produced by twitches and is dependent on the cerebellar output


Brain Research Institute
University of Zurich

Dr Cavaccini is currently working as postdoc in Prof Karayannis’ lab at University of Zurich. She has previously worked on motor behaviour and learning processes; this background enables her current investigation on sensory-motor integration at the early and later phases of brain development, at cortical and subcortical level.

Assistant Research Scientist
Psychological and Brain Sciences
University of Iowa

Dr. Dooley is an Assistant Research Scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Blumberg. In graduate school, he studied cortical evolution in Dr. Leah Krubitzer’s laboratory. Currently, his research focuses on how self-generated movements—including myoclonic twitches produced during sleep—promote age-appropriate sensorimotor refinement.

Production Partner


Neurotar develops instrumentation for microscopic imaging and electrophysiological recordings in the brain of awake head-fixed mice. Its proprietary Mobile HomeCage® allows integrating high-precision tests with behavior, starting from simple locomotion tracking to maze navigation. Neurotar has extensive imaging experience: the company pioneered in vivo two-photon imaging as contract research for the pharmaceutical industry in 2010. It has since extended its service portfolio to imaging studies in awake behaving mice.

Additional Content From Neurotar

Related Content