Our group seeks to understand how the nervous system controls skilled behavior by answering two questions:

How are spiking population codes transformed across levels of the motor system (from cortical activity to the spikes in muscle fibers)?

How are motor codes reshaped during sensorimotor learning (on timescales ranging from the acquisition of skilled behavior across development to agile behavioral adjustments in adults)?

We use two model systems – vocal motor control in songbirds and skilled forelimb control in rodents – to address these questions, funded by multiple NIH grants as well as support from NSF and the McKnight Foundation. By combining neurophysiology, advanced computational analyses, and the development of novel electrode systems, our published work in songbirds has shown how the brain uses precisely-timed spike patterns to control complex behaviors by exploiting the biomechanics of the body (Sober et al., TINS 2018, Srivastava et al, PNAS 2017, Tang et al., PLoS Biology 2014). This project has recently expanded to include investigations into the neuromuscular control of forelimb behavior in rats and mice, both to reveal common computational strategies for motor codes across species and effector organs and to combine our studies of muscle-based spike activity with advanced techniques for manipulating central and peripheral circuits in rodents. Our rodent work to date has primarily been conducted via collaborations with other groups (including Drs. Rui Costa, Mackenzie Mathis, and Yutaka Yoshida). We now seek to fill a number of positions to expand this line of research within our own lab at Emory, as well as working with our existing network of experimental collaborators.

Joining our group also offers opportunities to work with our network of collaborators in the Atlanta motor neuroscience community (including possible co-advisement). This network of labs spans multiple departments at Emory and Georgia Tech. Ongoing funded collaborations include our computational work with Drs. Ilya Nemenman (Zhou et al., PNAS 2018), Gordon Berman (Saravanan et al., eNeuro 2019), Lena Ting (Sober et al., TINS 2018), and Chethan Pandarinath as well as our development of novel flexible micro-EMG arrays that we use to record spike-resolved activity patterns from muscle fibers during behavior in collaboration with Dr. Muhannad Bakir (Zia et al., 2018, Srivastava et al., PNAS 2017).

We anticipate making multiple hires. Depending on the background and interests of each applicant, available positions range from basic science (e.g. experimental and computational studies of spike patterns in neurons and muscle fibers) to more engineering-focused projects focusing on electrode hardware development (development of >1,000 channel arrays for recording massive populations of spiking motor units from muscles using advanced nanofabrication techniques).  We therefore seek candidates with one or more of the following areas of expertise:

  • Rodent electrophysiology (especially EMG, but also neural recordings)
  • Quantitative analysis of animal behavior
  • Computational analysis of spiking codes in individual neurons and/or spiking populations
  • Developing, fabricating, and testing novel electrode systems and related software tools

To discuss these opportunities, interested candidates can contact samuel [dot] j [dot] sober [at] emory [dot] edu to discuss further. Applicants should submit their CV and contact information for three references to the same address. Positions will remain open until filled. Emory University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.