MAR 11, 2020 6:00 AM PDT

PANEL: The Neural Control of Locomotion, an Integrative Approach

Presented at: Neuroscience 2020
C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE
  • Abe and Zarem Professor of Biology and Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology
      Michael Dickinson attended college at Brown University, originally with the intent of majoring in Visual Arts, but eventually switched to Neuroscience, driven by a fascination for the mechanisms that underlie animal behavior. He received a Ph. D. in Zoology at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1991. Dickinson worked briefly at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, and served as an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of Chicago in 1991. He moved to University of California, Berkeley in 1996 and was appointed as the Williams Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology in 2000. From 2010 to 2014, he was the Ben Hall Professor of basic life science in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington. He is now the Abe and Esther Zarem Professor of Biology and Bioengineering at Caltech. Dickinson enjoys cooking, gardening, playing guitar, and torturing his children with Dad jokes.
    • Post-doctoral Researcher, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington School of Medicine
        Tony received his B.S. in Engineering Physics at UC Berkeley, and completed his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington in 2012 in Fred Rieke's lab. There, he studied the molecular mechanisms that make single-photon responses in mouse rod photoreceptors nearly noiseless. He then joined Rachel Wilson's lab in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School as a post-doc, to take advantage of novel genetic tools in Drosophila melanogaster and to study molecular, cellular and circuit mechanisms underlying mechanosensory and auditory processing. He then returned to the University of Washington to join his friend John Tuthill's lab to work on the sensorimotor circuits controlling walking in the fly.
      • MD/PhD Student, Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
          Clare received her B.A. in Neuroscience from Amherst College in 2010 and her MPhil from the University of Cambridge in 2011, where she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar. She started the Medical Scientist Training Program at Columbia in 2012, and in 2019 she received her PhD in the lab of Dr. Richard Mann, where she studied how serotonergic neuromodulation confers flexibility on locomotor circuitry. She will earn her MD in 2020, and will go on to pediatrics residency with the ultimate goal of becoming a physician scientist studying how an
          understanding of the basic mechanisms of neurodevelopment can be used to prevent and treat childhood neurological disorders.
        • Graduate student, Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, Stanford University
            Luke received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Penn State in 2015, and started his PhD in the Stanford Neurosciences program in 2016. He was attracted to neuroscience by its exciting molecular and cellular questions, and is now also exploring systems neuroscience. Currently, he hopes to use in vivo calcium imaging and virtual reality to ask questions about late stage visual processing in Drosophila. Luke's other passion is landscape and architecture photography; he earned a B.A. in Integrative Arts at Penn State and now enjoys photographing the California landscape.
          • Post-doctoral associate, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
              Sasha received his B.S. and M. Eng in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2002. He then worked close to a decade as a software engineer at IBM Research, specializing in parallel computing algorithms for the BlueGene supercomputer project. Eventually, his interests transitioned to the study of computations in neural circuits. In 2019 he defended his thesis work in Rachel Wilson's lab at Harvard, focusing on neural control of steering in walking Drosophila. Currently, his research interest lies at the interface between executive and motor control in Drosophila, which he plans to pursue as a fellow at the Rowland Institute at Harvard starting in the fall of 2020. Sasha's other passions are sailing, classical guitar and travel.
            • Graduate Student, Graduate Aeronautics Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
                Emily received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2018 and started her PhD in Aeronautics at Caltech fall of that year. She was initially drawn to neuroscience to study controls in biological systems which led to an interest in the neural basis of navigation and flight stabilization. Currently, she is working on implementing a model of idiothetic path integration trained on and verified by data from flies performing local search in constrained environments. When she's not in the lab, Emily is most likely at the park with her dog, Margot.


              The locomotion of humans and other animals requires a seamless flow of information from sensory modalities all the way to the motor periphery. As such, locomotion is an excellent system for understanding how the brain modifies neural signals from one processing stage to the next, ultimately transforming sensory signals into a code that controls motor output and behavior. The presentations in this panel represent a sample of the work being conducted by a consortium of seven laboratories supported by a U19 grant through the Brain Initiative. Our research exploits a single, experimentally tractable model system, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, in which we can easily study the functions of genetically identified cell classes in ethologically relevant behaviors. The team’s long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive theory of animal behavior that explicitly incorporates neural processes operating across hierarchical levels — from circuits that regulate the action of individual muscles to those that regulate behavioral sequences and decisions. The talks in this panel – all delivered by graduate students and post-docs - will highlight a range of experimental approaches that collectively constitutes a systematic attack on the neural basis of behavior that integrates vertically across phenomenological tiers.

              Learning Objectives:

              1. Introduce the audience to the concept of integrative approaches in neuroscience

              2. Provide research examples spanning a range of phenomenological tiers, from local sensory-motor circuits to behavior

              3. Illustrate the utility of Drosophila as a model system in neuroscience

              Show Resources
              Show Resources