(1) How Does the Brainstem Implement Organized Pattern of Movements?
This project seeks to elucidate how neurons in the brainstem (reticulospinal, vestibulospinal, raphespinal) contribute to motor coordination by determining the patterns of functional connections between these neurons and the various populations of neurons in the spinal cord. Understanding how brain and spinal cord communicate and how this communication changes after brain or spinal cord injury is crucial for the design of rational motor rehabilitation strategies.
(2) Structure and Plasticity of Spinal Excitatory Circuits
Glutamatergic interneurons in the spinal cord are a major source of input to motoneurons and preganglionic neurons (the output neurons of the CNS). Some of these glutamatergic interneurons integrate both sensory inputs from the periphery and descending inputs from the brainstem. We seek to identify these glutamatergic interneurons and determine if in condition of reduced descending input (e.g. after spinal cord injury) they can support motor and autonomic function when activated by sensory input.
(3) Cellular and Circuit Mechanisms of Motor Dysfunction during Development of Mental Disorders
This project seeks to identify specific groups of brainstem neurons whose long-range connectivity may be altered early in Autism, providing novel cellular and circuit mechanisms for motor deficits associated with this disorder. The work will support a better recognition of the motor symptomatology that may be used as early indicators in neurodevelopmental mental disorders.
Calcium Imaging, Optogenetic, Electrophysiology, Laser Scanning Photostimulation, Virus-based Circuit Tracing , 3D Reconstruction of Single Neuron Morphology.