Some actions are innate or prewired (such as swallowing or breathing); others are learned anew throughout life, likely through a process of trial and error. We use electrophysiology, imaging, and optogenetics in behaving animals to understand how novel self-paced actions are generated, and how specific actions that lead to particular outcomes are selected. Dopamine is critical for the generation of novel actions, and plasticity in cortico-basal ganglia circuits is necessary for action selection. As actions are shaped they become organized into chunks. Neural substrates of parsing and concatenation of motor chunks emerge in basal ganglia circuits.
Speaker: Rui Costa studied veterinary medicine at the Technical University of Lisbon, received a Ph.D. with Alcino Silva at UCLA and did postdoctoral research with Miguel Nicolelis at Duke. He became Section Chief at the NIH in 2006 and an Investigator of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Program in 2009. Costa is an International Early Career Scientist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a recipient of the 2012 Young Investigator Award of the Society for Neuroscience, and a recipient of the 2014 Young Investigator Career Award from Fondation Louis-Jeantet.