Peter L. Strick, PhD

  • Thomas Detre Professor & Chair of Neurobiology
  • Scientific Director, University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute




Education & Training

PhD, University of Pennsylvania (1972)

Campus Address

Biomedical Science Tower 3 Room 4074

One-Line Research Description

CNS networks for motor, cognitive and affective functions

Dr. Strick's research focuses on four major areas: 1) the generation and control of voluntary movement by the motor areas of the cerebral cortex; 2) the motor, cognitive and affective functions of the basal ganglia and cerebellum; 3) the neural basis for the mind-body connection; and 4) unraveling complex neural networks in the central nervous system.

In the past, the primary motor cortex (M1) was viewed as the main cortical area that projects to the spinal cord and generates movement. Other brain regions were thought to influence motor output solely by gaining access to M1. Experiments in Dr. Strick's laboratory have led to major modifications in this view. His results show that the frontal lobe contains at least six "premotor" areas. Each of these premotor areas projects directly to M1 and to the spinal cord. In fact, some of the neurons in the premotor areas are like neurons in M1 in having direct connections with spinal motoneurons that control muscles. Thus, the premotor areas have direct access to the spinal cord mechanisms responsible for volitional movement. Dr. Strick's laboratory is presently using modern neuroanatomical, physiological, and functional imaging techniques to determine how each of the cortical motor areas differentially contributes to the generation and control of voluntary movement.

His laboratory also is investigating the role of the premotor areas in the recovery of motor function that can occur following damage to M1 or its connections (as in spinal cord injury or strokes). Present evidence suggests that the premotor areas are important for the guidance of limb movements, the proper sequencing of motor tasks and the acquisition and retention of motor skills. Indeed, damage to the premotor areas in humans leads to a syndrome termed "apraxia" in which patients are unable to perform skilled motor tasks like dressing, shaving, and using tools.

Recently, Dr. Strick's laboratory also has provided new evidence that basal ganglia and cerebellar outputs are involved in a variety of nonmotor functions. His results suggest that concepts about the function of these subcortical centers should be broadened to include their involvement in cognitive processes such as working memory, rule-based learning, switching attention, visual perception, and the planning of future behavior. Furthermore, Dr. Strick's results support the growing evidence that dysfunction of the basal ganglia and/or cerebellum may be partly responsible for the symptoms of behavioral disorders such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and autism.

Representative Publications

Strick PL, Dum RP, Rathelot JA. The Cortical Motor Areas and the Emergence of Motor Skills: A Neuroanatomical Perspective. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2021 Jul 8;44:425-447. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-070918-050216. Epub 2021 Apr 16. PMID: 33863253.

Griffin DM, Strick PL. The motor cortex uses active suppression to sculpt movement. Sci Adv. 2020 Aug 21;6(34):eabb8395. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abb8395. PMID: 32937371; PMCID: PMC7442473.

Levinthal DJ, Strick PL. Multiple areas of the cerebral cortex influence the stomach. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jun 9;117(23):13078-13083. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2002737117. Epub 2020 May 20. PMID: 32434910; PMCID: PMC7293610.

Dum RP, Levinthal DJ, Strick PL. The mind-body problem: Circuits that link the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Dec 23;116(52):26321–8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1902297116. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 31871146; PMCID: PMC6936592.

Bostan, A. C. and P. L. Strick (2018). "The basal ganglia and the cerebellum: nodes in an integrated network." Nat Rev Neurosci 19(6): 338-350.

Rathelot JA, Dum RP, Strick PL. Posterior parietal cortex contains a command apparatus for hand movements. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Apr 18;114(16):4255-4260. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608132114. Epub 2017 Apr 3. PMID: 28373554; PMCID: PMC5402465.

Dum RP, Levinthal DJ, Strick PL. Motor, cognitive, and affective areas of the cerebral cortex influence the adrenal medulla. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Aug 30;113(35):9922-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1605044113. Epub 2016 Aug 15. PMID: 27528671; PMCID: PMC5024624.

Griffin DM, Hoffman DS, Strick PL. Corticomotoneuronal cells are "functionally tuned". Science. 2015 Nov 6;350(6261):667-70. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa8035. PMID: 26542568; PMCID: PMC4829105.

Extended practice of a motor skill is associated with reduced metabolic activity in M1. Picard N, Matsuzaka Y, Strick PL.
Nat Neurosci. 2013 Sep;16(9):1340-7.

Transneuronal tracing with neurotropic viruses reveals network macroarchitecture. Dum RP, Strick PL.
Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2013 Apr;23(2):245-9.

Levinthal DJ, Strick PL. The motor cortex communicates with the kidney. J Neurosci. 2012 May 9;32(19):6726-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0406-12.2012. PMID: 22573695; PMCID: PMC3363289.

RŸnger, D., Ashby, F.G., Picard, N. and Strick, P.L. Response-mode shifts during sequence learning of macaque monkeys. Psychol Res. Dec 9, 2011.

Coffman KA, Dum RP, Strick PL. Cerebellar vermis is a target of projections from the motor areas in the cerebral cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 20;108(38):16068-73. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1107904108. Epub 2011 Sep 12. PMID: 21911381; PMCID: PMC3179064.

Bostan, A.C. and Strick, P.L. The cerebellum and basal ganglia are interconnected. Neuropsychol Rev. Sep;20(3): 261-70, 2010.

Bostan AC, Dum RP, Strick PL. The basal ganglia communicate with the cerebellum. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 May 4;107(18):8452-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000496107. Epub 2010 Apr 19. PMID: 20404184; PMCID: PMC2889518.

Phillips, K.A., Sobieski,C,A,, Gilbert, V.R., Chiappini-Williamson, C., Sherwood, C.C. and Strick, P.L. The development of the basal ganglia in Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella).Brain Res. May 6;1329: 82-8, 2010.

Dum RP, Levinthal DJ, Strick PL. The spinothalamic system targets motor and sensory areas in the cerebral cortex of monkeys. J Neurosci. 2009 Nov 11;29(45):14223-35. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3398-09.2009. PMID: 19906970; PMCID: PMC2796243.

Rathelot JA, Strick PL. Subdivisions of primary motor cortex based on cortico-motoneuronal cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 20;106(3):918-23. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808362106. Epub 2009 Jan 12. PMID: 19139417; PMCID: PMC2621250.

Strick PL, Dum RP, Fiez JA. Cerebellum and nonmotor function. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2009;32:413-34. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.31.060407.125606. PMID: 19555291.

Bostan AC, Dum RP, Strick PL. Functional Anatomy of Basal Ganglia Circuits with the Cerebral Cortex and the Cerebellum. Progress in Neurological Surgery. 33: 50-61.PMID 29332073 DOI: 10.1159/000480748 

Dum RP, Levinthal DJ, Strick PL. The mind-body problem: Circuits that link the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID 31871146 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1902297116