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Analyses of functional neuronal circuits in the central nervous system
Neuronal circuits are essential components of the nervous system. They provide the necessary processing power so the brain can react to external stimuli as well as controlling the body. In some cases, neuronal circuits have been reasonably well characterised, predominantly in simpler animals partly because these neuronal circits are smaller and easier to study. Walking or locomotion is believed to be initiated and modulated by signals from higher centres in the brain like the motorcortex and the cerebellum. Once initiated, the rhythmic activity of walking is selfsustained and for these repetitive nerve impulses that support walking, the brain is not needed (one classical example of this phenomenon is a chicken running without a head). Circuits of neurons referred to as the central pattern generator (CPG) maintain this self-sustainable activity in the spinal cord. For proper walking and locomotion, the CPGs on each side of the midline of the spinal cord need to communicate in order to activate of one side of the body while preventing activation of the other side of the body Through studies of mice lacking the tyrosine kinase receptor EphA4, we have started to unravel the neuronal circuit that controls locomotion. Our results have revealed EphA4 as the first marker for spinal cord neurons involved in CPG coordination and as such can be used to start unravel nerve cell populations and molecules in the functional network building the CPG.
In this project, your aim is to identify further markers the components in the central pattern generator circuit by using microdissection, microarray analysis, bioinformatics, and in-situ hybridisation. Understanding the molecular components of the mammalian CPG may offer novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of paraplegics whose locomotor performance can be improved by stimulating plasticity in spinal cord walking circuits.
Your preferred background is in biomedicine or molecular biology. Previous laboratory experience with neurobiology or molecular biology is a plus.
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