Somatosensation consists of three main sensory modalities: nociception (thermal sensation/pain), mechanosensation (touch), and proprioception (sense of limb and body position). Our understanding of how these senses are relayed through the dorsal spinal cord up to supraspinal regions is rapidly progressing due to the advent of multiple genetic manipulations and optogenetic techniques in mice.
Using a combination of molecular, electrophysiological, and behavioral methods, we aim to understand the circuits that form the basis of somatosensory behavior, how they integrate somatosensory information, how they form their connections, and what plastic changes may occur upon differential sensory input.
Proprioception, the sense of limb and body position, generates a body map that is critical to generating proper motor output. Despite decades of research, it is still unknown precisely how this sense allows us to achieve controlled motor function.
Currently, we are focused on understanding the logic of proprioceptive circuits relayed through the spinal cord. Previously, we uncovered a novel route for proprioceptive information using molecular genetic tools in mice. We are disentangling the contribution of distinct populations of cerebellar projecting neurons in the spinal cord and medulla to understand their role in mediating proprioceptive perception.