The goal of our research is to understand the plasticity of neural circuits controlling behavior. To achieve this goal, we need a thorough understanding of the organization of neural circuits underlying behavior. The overall aim of our research program is to uncover the principles and functional consequences of plasticity of motor circuits in normal and pathological conditions.
An intriguing feature of the nervous system is the plasticity, the lifelong amazing capacity to change and adapt in light of internal and external environmental modifications. This is the focus of our projects that are aimed at understanding this dynamic process of the vertebrate spinal locomotor networks in physiological (exercise/training) and pathophysiological conditions, such as the injuries and neuromuscular disorders (NMDs). To address this issue we take advantage of the experimental amenability of the genetically powerful model system of the zebrafish – whose circuitry is relatively simple, better understood and produces a measurable and robust behavioral output.
Our current research projects are directed to assess how changes of muscle fiber properties can shape the organization and operational range of the corresponding upstream neuro-circuit.
(A) Neuromuscular organization in the adult zebrafish. Schematic summary of the organization and order of recruitment of the different MN pools in adult zebrafish. (B) Modular organization of the adult zebrafish spinal circuits.
Motor neurons control locomotor circuit function retrogradely via gap junctions.
Nature 2016 Jan;529(7586):399-402
A Hardwired Circuit Supplemented with Endocannabinoids Encodes Behavioral Choice in Zebrafish.
Curr. Biol. 2015 Oct;25(20):2610-20
Separate microcircuit modules of distinct v2a interneurons and motoneurons control the speed of locomotion.
Neuron 2014 Aug;83(4):934-43
Pattern of innervation and recruitment of different classes of motoneurons in adult zebrafish.
J. Neurosci. 2013 Jun;33(26):10875-86
Principles governing recruitment of motoneurons during swimming in zebrafish.
Nat. Neurosci. 2011 Jan;14(1):93-9
Maria Bertuzzi - Postdoc
Fabjola Xheka - Student