Spinal interneurons and motor control:
Locomotion is generated by networks of neurons within the spinal cord which remain poorly defined. We are working to identify and characterise specific populations of spinal interneurons involved in the control of locomotion. Their intrinsic properties, synaptic connectivity, and roles in locomotion are being investigated using a combination of molecular genetic and extracellular and whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiological techniques.
The excitability of spinal neurons (particularly motoneurons) can be modulated to suit different states or behaviours. We are currently investigating the roles of several local neuromodulatory systems in the control of motoneuron output during rhythmic motor activities such as locomotion.
Disease mechanisms in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis:
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal disease characterised by the selective loss of motoneurons. We utilise animal and cell culture models of ALS to investigate changes in the properties of motor networks. We aim to significantly advance our understanding of the disease mechanisms underlying ALS and hopefully provide new targets for much needed treatments.