How are the incredible movements of animals accomplished, from the mountain goat’s nimble adaptive locomotion to the precision pounce of a cougar? The answers to this question are distributed throughout the nervous system and the body as a complex interaction of neural coding and biomechanics. But, remarkably, the mammalian spinal cord can autonomously mediate complex behaviors such as walking, jumping, and protective reflexes. We seek to define the roles of spinal neurons in selecting, executing, and linking together the elemental movements that can be built up into these behaviors. We combine systematic characterization of spinal cord cell types, focused studies with quantitative behavior analysis, and high-density neural recordings to examine how spinal motor control tasks are instantiated in specific neural elements.
Laurens Bosman, Aleksandra Badura