Department of Neurobiology

Hooks, Bryan M
Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
PhD, Harvard University (2007)
Campus Address:
Shipping Address:
   3500 Terrace Street, STE W1485
   Pittsburgh, PA, 15213-2500
Telephone: 412-624-8465
Fax: 412-648-1441


How does the brain control movement of the body?

In mammals, motor cortex is specialized for the planning, initiation, control, and learning of movements. But the computations performed by this circuit are not known. My research seeks to (a) identify the specific connections of defined cell types in motor cortex, (b) explain how these specific connections drive neuronal firing, and (c) characterize the connections that change strength during learning. Thus, our goal is a circuit diagram of the brain with a functional understanding of how the circuit processing information.

The tools needed to define cortical circuits are being rapidly developed: New transgenic mouse lines label specific sets of excitatory pyramidal neurons and inhibitory interneurons in mouse neocortex, giving us access to defined cell types. We use these to identify cell-type specific inputs and outputs in the motor cortex. Different cell types are believed to play distinct roles in the local circuit, so understanding their specific inputs will help explain the specific response properties of each cell type. New optical and genetic methods for circuit mapping make it possible to independently excite one or more neuron populations, thus quantifying the connectivity of local and long-range inputs to different cortical cell types.

Research Interests:

My short term goals are to:
(1) Understand how feedforward inhibition is recruited in motor cortex by distinct cortical and thalamic inputs. Specifically, we seek to know whether these inputs recruit the same types of inhibitory interneurons (such as parvalbumin and somatostatin expressing interneurons), whether these inputs excite the same individual cells, and what rules govern the magnitude of feedforward excitation and inhibition from cortical and thalamic inputs to motor cortex.
(2) Examine where in the cortical circuit the inputs from distinct motor thalamic nuclei are combined. This will help to address how subcortical regions involved in motor learning and action selection, relaying input via motor thalamus, act together to influence the output of motor cortex.


We use mouse motor and sensory cortex as a model system, taking advantage of cell-type specific mouse lines and optogentic tools. Our techniques include stereotaxic surgery, use of AAV for expressing optogenetic tools and fluorophores, mouse brain slice and laser-scanning microscopy to map circuits, and anatomical techniques for reconstructing circuits. We will continue to develop new techniques to address questions of the neural basis for motor control.
I am recruiting ambitious and talented graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research associates. I want scientists who (a) are motivated to understand how motor cortex circuitry contributes to the control of movement,
(b) are excited about learning and developing novel techniques for circuit analysis, and
(c) want to bring their energy and enthusiasm to my lab.


Dual-channel circuit mapping reveals sensorimotor convergence in the primary motor cortex.
Hooks BM, Lin JY, Guo C, Svoboda K.
J Neurosci. 2015 Mar 11;35(10):4418-26.

Organization of cortical and thalamic input to pyramidal neurons in mouse motor cortex.
Hooks BM, Mao T, Gutnisky DA, Yamawaki N, Svoboda K, Shepherd GM.
J Neurosci. 2013 Jan 9;33(2):748-60.

A toolbox of Cre-dependent optogenetic transgenic mice for light-induced activation and silencing.
Madisen L, Mao T, Koch H, Zhuo JM, Berenyi A, Fujisawa S, Hsu YW, Garcia AJ 3rd, Gu X, Zanella S, Kidney J, Gu H, Mao Y, Hooks BM, Boyden ES, Buzsáki G, Ramirez JM, Jones AR, Svoboda K, Han X, Turner EE, Zeng H.
Nat Neurosci. 2012 Mar 25;15(5):793-802.

Long-range neuronal circuits underlying the interaction between sensory and motor cortex.
Mao T, Kusefoglu D, Hooks BM, Huber D, Petreanu L, Svoboda K.
Neuron. 2011 Oct 6;72(1):111-23.

Laminar analysis of excitatory local circuits in vibrissal motor and sensory cortical areas.
Hooks BM, Hires SA, Zhang YX, Huber D, Petreanu L, Svoboda K, Shepherd GM.
PLoS Biol. 2011 Jan 4;9(1):e1000572.

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