The general goal of our research is to understand the organization and operation of neuronal networks responsible for maintenance of basic body posture, as well as their damage caused by spinal cord injury (SCI). To reveal common basic principles in operation of postural networks, we use experimental models of different complexity: lower vertebrates (lampreys), and mammals (rabbits and cats).
We have developed a number of methods and techniques specifically aimed at the study of postural networks (techniques which allow studying the orientation-dependent activity of individual neurons in in vitro and in decerebrate preparations; recording the activity of identified neurons in animals performing postural tasks; a method of “reversible spinalization”; etc.)
Our specific aims are:
- To characterize formation and functional role of supraspinal commands for postural corrections and their impairment by SCI.
- To analyze operation of spinal postural networks, and their impairment caused by SCI.
- To characterize the potential of spinal postural networks for plastic changes contributing to restoration of postural functions in chronic SCI subjects, and to test methods for induction of such changes.
These studies are necessary for understanding the origin of motor deficits caused by interruption of spinal pathways. They will help to focus various therapies to restoration of a basic motor function–postural control, and to provide suggestions for rehabilitation of SCI-patients.
Effect of spinalization on population activity of spinal neurons. A,B. The mean firing frequency of the same population of neurons in intact spinal cord (A) and after spinalization (B). C-F. Effect of spinalization of activity of two populations of spinal neurons (F-neurons and E-neurons) contributing to generation of postural corrections. The mean firing frequency of populations of F- and E-neurons in intact (C,E) and spinal (D,F) subjects, respectively.
Grigori Orlovsky - Affiliated professor emeritus, researcher
Pavel Zelenin - Associate professor
Vladimir Lyalka - Laboratory engineer
Li-Ju Hsu - Postdoc
Manideep Gupta Vemula - PhD student