Credentials: Integrative Biology Department
Position title: Neural control of movement
Phone: 608 262 4981
1117 W Johnson St
Madison, WI 53706
Developmental Biology & Regenerative Medicine
Neurons orchestrate an incredible array of actions by coordinating movements across the body. Using coordination we make music, play sports, communicate, and move about the world. Even an act as routine as walking requires moving our legs, arms, trunks, and heads in conjunction, and we do it all without a conscious thought. Research in my lab addresses how neurons transform movement goals into patterns of activity that coordinate muscles across the body, and how their synapses encode learning about coordination – particularly as developing animals discover new and better ways to move. We research this problem in zebrafish as they first learn to swim, when their movements are rudimentary because their bodies are simple. Still, by combining these rudimentary movements zebrafish can make elegant actions like hunting prey, evading predators, and navigating flows. Zebrafish possess miniature versions of key neural structures and cell types we use to coordinate our bodies, and because they are transparent, zebrafish offer unrivaled access to these cells. We use electrodes to reveal the operations of individual cells and synapses, and we image activity across cell populations spanning the brain. Our approach affords a unique opportunity to explain not only how neural circuits pattern movements across the body, but also how synapses let neurons cooperate within those circuits. These precise recordings are essential for understanding where and how learning remodels the brain.