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Research

Active locomotion is a feature of almost all animals. We are interested in understanding its neural control.

We study the neural basis of walking, mainly in stick insects, but also in the fruit fly Drosophila. It is known that the generation of a functional motor output across vertebrate and invertebrate species results from the integration of descending signals from the brain, output from central pattern generating networks, local feedback from sensory neurons about movements and forces generated in the locomotor organs, and coordinating signals from neighboring segments or appendages.

In our research we investigate the mechanisms underlying the generation of locomotor behavior from the analysis of kinematics down to the analysis of cellular properties. We employ a variety of techniques, often simultaneously, to record from and stimulate neurons in the CNS, sense organs and muscles, and to monitor the behavior. Techniques include high speed video analysis of movements,  electromyograhic recordings and force measurements of muscle contractions, en passant recordings from motor nerves, sharp electrode and patch-clamp recordings from neurons, immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy.

The simple organization of the stick insect and the fruit fly allows us to apply most of these techniques in intact or partially intact animals that exhibit active locomotion or leg movements.