Grillner Laboratory

Professor, senior

Sten Grillner

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 869 00
Organizational unit: Research Group Grillner

More information about Grillner Lab

Research focus

The Forebrain Control of Goal-directed Motion — from Ion Channels to Behavior

Our main aim is to unravel the cellular bases of motor behavior with a focus on the mechanisms underlying selection of behavior and the neural bases of in particular goal-directed locomotion and related steering, orienting and eye movements. The role of the basal ganglia, habenulae and tectum are in focus, while we have previously elucidated the brainstem–spinal cord microcircuits underlying locomotion. This in turn requires a detailed knowledge of which nerve cells take part, how they talk to each other through synaptic interaction and an understanding of the intrinsic function of these networks.

The properties of different classes of nerve cells within the networks can vary greatly and are determined by the palette of ion channels expressed and also other gene products. Moreover, the properties of the different neurons can be modified by different monoaminergic, peptidergic and other G-protein-mediated receptor that act to fine-tune cellular or synaptic properties of the different network neurons.

The operation of the networks at a millisecond level is due to glutamate, glycine and GABA synaptic transmission. Essentially, our research extends from ion channels and synapses to network mechanisms and behavior utilizing a multitude of techniques from patch clamp and cellular imaging to multi-scale modelling, tracing and immuno­histochemical techniques and studies of behavior. We utilize preferentially the lamprey as model organism, which also has proved important from an evolutionary perspective.

We have shown that the circuits in the basal ganglia, habenulae, tectum and the brainstem–spinal cord have been conserved throughout vertebrate phylogeny to a very unexpected degree.

The projects are supported by Karolinska Institutet, the Swedish Research Council (M and NT), and the EU.

Throughout the vertebrates, several basic motor behaviors are controlled by neuronal networks (CPGs) located in the brainstem (e.g. swallowing, breathing) and the spinal cord (e.g. locomotion). The basal ganglia are similarly organized in lamprey and primates, and play a crucial role in the selection of motor behaviors and the habenulae (Hab) encodes value-based information. The optic tectum (OT) plays an important role for visuomotor coordination and orienting/evasive movements.

Selected publications

Ciliated neurons lining the central canal sense both fluid movement and pH through ASIC3.
Jalalvand E, Robertson B, Wallén P, Grillner S
Nat Commun 2016 Jan;7():10002

Tectal microcircuit generating visual selection commands on gaze-controlling neurons.
Kardamakis A, Saitoh K, Grillner S
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2015 Apr;112(15):E1956-65

The lamprey pallium provides a blueprint of the mammalian motor projections from cortex.
Ocaña F, Suryanarayana S, Saitoh K, Kardamakis A, Capantini L, Robertson B, et al
Curr. Biol. 2015 Feb;25(4):413-23

Gating of steering signals through phasic modulation of reticulospinal neurons during locomotion.
Kozlov A, Kardamakis A, Hellgren Kotaleski J, Grillner S
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2014 Mar;111(9):3591-6

Independent circuits in the basal ganglia for the evaluation and selection of actions.
Stephenson-Jones M, Kardamakis A, Robertson B, Grillner S
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2013 Sep;110(38):E3670-9

Group members

Peter Wallén - Associate professor

Brita Robertson - Senior laboratory manager

Alexander Kozlov - Research engineer

Andreas Kardamakis - Postdoc

Juan Pérez-Fernández - Postdoc

Arndt von Twickel - Postdoc

Daichi Suzuki - Postdoc

Elham Jalalvand - Postdoc

Shreyas Suryanarayana - PhD student

Therese Ljungquist - Secretary