Neural circuitry of action: from spatial perception to motor integration
One of the major tasks that the nervous system faces is that of linking perception to action. We perceive the world around us through our senses and we use this information to select the most appropriate set of actions.
My lab studies the organization and function of neural circuits controlling movement in mice. Our aim is to define the neural circuits responsible for generating automatic and goal-oriented movements and delineate the underlying sensory-motor integration processes that link perception to action. We investigate four key aspects of the motor control problem:
- How, during development, are neuronal populations assembled into functional networks with the degree of specificity needed to coordinate movements?
- How do animals produce an accurate map of the surrounding world that can be used to direct movements?
- Which neuronal populations are involved in directing movements towards salient positions on this map?
- Which neuronal elements integrate incoming sensory inputs into the ongoing motor routine?
Answering these questions is essential if we are to understand how we produce purposeful movements and, importantly, why we fail to do so upon injury or disease. We investigate these questions by using and developing a variety of methodologies. These include mouse genetics, viral strategies for circuit tracing and functional manipulation, in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics and behavioral analysis.