Assembly and Function of Motor Control Circuits
Neural circuits within the brain and spinal cord play central roles in governing diverse motor
behaviors vital to animals, including locomotion, breathing, posture, and balance. During
development, synaptic connections between motor neurons, interneurons, and sensory neurons
establish the basic architecture of the neural networks that facilitate these essential motor
functions. The genetic programs that link neuronal specification, synaptic specificity, and motor
behavior are, however, poorly defined.
Our lab seeks to bridge these gaps, by employing multidisciplinary and integrative approaches,
including genetic manipulations of defined neuronal types, genome-wide interrogation of gene
regulatory networks, modern circuit-tracing methods, comparative analyses in multiple vertebrate organisms, and behavioral assays.
The overall goal of our studies is to reveal the mechanisms by which neural circuits are
assembled, and to determine how genetically encoded developmental programs contribute to
the emergence of specific motor behaviors. Defining the genetic pathways governing neuronal
diversification and connectivity can provide basic insights relevant to the study of diseases and injuries to the nervous system that affect motor circuit function.