The fundamental features of locomotor behavior are controlled by neurons located in the spinal cord. Following spinal cord injury, spinal circuits are largely intact but lack key instructions from the brain.
Our hypothesis is that motor function could be restored following spinal cord injury by re-activating the spinal circuits that no longer receive a sufficient signal from the brain. We have discovered that V2a neurons are important for initiating locomotion in response to supraspinal and sensory input.
We are developing tools to activate motor circuits in animal models of spinal cord injury with the goal of devising novel treatment strategies to restore motor function (walking and breathing) to spinal cord injury patients.