We are guided by three key questions...
What are the cell types of the mammalian spinal cord? Using single nucleus RNA sequencing, we established the first molecular and cellular atlas of the adult spinal cord. This work identified different organization of the dorsal and ventral regions of the spinal cord, revealed novel populations, and serves as an important reference to our field. In ongoing work, we use similar techniques to probe cell-type specific changes in different behaviors and in response to injury and disease. We're particularly interested in how the unique molecular repertoire of each population serves its cellular and circuit functions.
How do specific spinal cord cell types contribute to behavior? We use mouse genetics, cell type specific manipulations, and behavioral analysis to reveal how neuronal populations contribute to movement and to motor learning. We want to know how motor programs are encoded within spinal circuits.? Do particular spinal populations contribute specific computations in motor control? Can we relate cell-type connectivity, location, or other cellular features to function?
How are spinal cord cells incorporated into central nervous system-wide circuits for motor control? We want to know how descending pathways from the brain recruit specific spinal cord cells and circuits to enact movements. What are the roles of parallel descending pathways? We found a direct projection from the cerebellum to the spinal cord that is critical for motor behavior. Now, we want to know how spinal circuits can be dynamically recruited by descending pathways in different behavioral contexts.