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How Dopamine System Helps coordinate behaviors

2020-07-06 09:24

For a worm, a big lawn of the bacteria that it eats is a great place for it to disperse its eggs so that each hatchling can emerge into a nutritive environment. That’s why when a worm speedily roams about a food patch, it methodically lays its eggs as it goes. A new study by neuroscientists at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory investigates this example of action coordination — where egg-laying is coupled to the animal’s roaming — to demonstrate how a nervous system coordinates distinct behavioral outputs. That’s a challenge many organisms face, albeit in different ways, during daily life.

“All animals display a remarkable ability to coordinate their diverse motor programs, but the mechanisms within the brain that allow for this coordination are poorly understood,” note the scientists, including Steven Flavell, Lister Brothers Career Development Assistant Professor in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Flavell lab members Nathan Cermak, Stephanie Yu, and Rebekah Clark were co-lead authors of the study published this month in eLife.