Dr. Rob Brownstone and his team have successfully identified and characterised a previously unknown population of neurons – now known as Hb9 interneurons – that may play a role in the rhythmic pattern of walking. This is part of their larger mission to understand spinal cord circuits involved in controlling locomotion and other movement, as the launching pad for future therapies for people with paralysis and other disorders affecting movement.
The Motor Control Lab researchers have identified a mechanism by which the spinal cord can regulate the response properties of its motor neurons. In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Tom Jessell, they have identified the neurons in the spinal cord that regulate these properties.
The lab’s research team has identified a spinal cord circuit that controls the hand’s ability to grasp; this is a step toward alleviating functional problems for people who cannot control their hands.
The researchers have used a number of methods – anatomical, physiological, and computational –to study the distribution of particular ion channels in the dendrites of motor neurons. These channels play important roles in helping motoneurons “sum up” or integrate the information they receive from other neurons in order to produce appropriate muscle contraction for a given behaviour.
In collaboration with Dr. Victor Rafuse, Dr. Brownstone’s group has characterised motor neurons generated from mouse embryonic stem cells and used these neurons for transplantation in a mouse model of peripheral nerve injury.
Faculty of Medicine
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2
Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada E2L4L5