Cell. 2018 Jun 28;174(1):44-58.e17. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.019. Epub 2018 May 17.
Many naturalistic behaviors are built from modular components that are expressed sequentially. Although striatal circuits have been implicated in action selection and implementation, the neural mechanisms that compose behavior in unrestrained animals are not well understood. Here we record bulk and cellular neural activity in the direct and indirect pathways of dorsolateral striatum (DLS) as mice spontaneously express action sequences. These experiments reveal that DLS neurons systematically encode information about the identity and ordering of sub-second 3D behavioral motifs; this encoding is facilitated by fast-timescale decorrelations between the direct and indirect pathways. Furthermore, lesioning the DLS prevents appropriate sequence assembly during exploratory or odor-evoked behaviors. By characterizing naturalistic behavior at neural timescales, these experiments identify a code for elemental 3D pose dynamics built from complementary pathway dynamics, support a role for DLS in constructing meaningful behavioral sequences, and suggest models for how actions are sculpted over time.