The striatum is critical for controlling motor output. However, it remains unclear how striatal output neurons encode and facilitate movement. A prominent theory suggests that striatal units encode movements in bursts of activity near specific events, such as the start or end of actions. These bursts are theorized to gate or permit specific motor actions, thereby encoding and facilitating complex sequences of actions. An alternative theory has suggested that striatal neurons encode continuous changes in sensory or motor information with graded changes in firing rate. Supporting this theory, many striatal neurons exhibit such graded changes without bursting near specific actions. Here, we evaluated these two theories in the same recordings of mice (both male and female). We recorded single-unit and multiunit activity from the dorsomedial striatum of mice as they spontaneously explored an arena. We observed both types of encoding, although continuous encoding was more prevalent than bursting near movement initiation or termination. The majority of recorded units did not exhibit positive linear relationships with speed but instead exhibited nonlinear relationships that peaked at a range of locomotor speeds. Bulk calcium recordings of identified direct and indirect pathway neurons revealed similar speed tuning profiles, indicating that the heterogeneity in response profiles was not due to this genetic distinction. We conclude that continuous encoding of speed is a central component of movement encoding in the striatum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1679-1688
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 19 2020


  • Electrophysiology
  • Encoding
  • Movement
  • Speed
  • Striatum
  • Tuning


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