My lab is interested in understanding how the nervous system controls movement.
We use experimental techniques include electrophysiology, immunocytochemistry, and computational modelling.
1. Characterize neurons involved in motor control. There are many neurons that are involved in motor control. How these neurons contribute to ensuring that we move properly is not well understood. A necessary first step is to subdivide neurons involved in motor control into groups that share common features such as location within the nervous system, synaptic inputs and synaptic outputs, firing patterns, and most importantly, shared role.
2. Identify the circuits that they form and study their involvement in motor tasks. Neurons rarely work in isolation. They are interconnected to each other, forming neural circuits. These neural circuits underlie different types of motor activity. For example, we identified a neural circuit linking the receptors of our skin that give us a sense of touch, a group of neurons that lie within the spinal cord, and motoneurons that innervate muscles and produce muscle contraction. We’ve shown that this circuit is essential for grip control and now we want to understand how they operate to ensure that we can properly grip a cup of coffee so that it doesn’t slip out of our hands without crushing it.
3. Study the operation of neural circuits and networks. Just as how our behaviour is shaped by that of those around us, the activity of a single neuron is shaped by the neurons that are connected to it. Considering that a single neuron can receive synaptic inputs from thousands of other neurons, understanding the behaviour of a network of neurons is not a simple task. But it is crucial to understanding how the nervous system controls movement and we aim to understand the operation of neural circuits and networks using computational modelling and cutting-edge research approaches that allow us to understand how the activity of single neurons can shape the overall activity of the network it lies within.