Spinal Sensory Signalling


Research center

47 bld de l'Hôpital
75651 Paris
Alexis Brice


Université Pierre et Marie Curie
Université Pierre et Marie Curie


UMRS 1127 UMR 7225
IHU-A-ICM, ERC Grant 2013-18


Spinal cord


Knafo S#, Wyart C@ [2017]. Bioluminescence Monitoring of Neuronal Activity in Freely Moving Zebrafish Larvae. eLife, in press.

Knafo S#,%, Fidelin K#,%, Prendergast A+, Tseng PE, Parrin A, Dickey CW, Bohm UL#, Nunes Figueiredo S, Thouvenin O, Pascal-Moussellard H, Wyart C@ [2017]. Mechanosensory neurons control the timing of spinal microcircuit selection during locomotion. eLife 6:e25260 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.25260

Djenoune L#, Desban L#, Gomez J, Sternberg JR#, Prendergast A+, Langui D, Quan FB#, Marnas H#, Auer TO, Rio JP, Del Bene F, Bardet PL@, Wyart C@ [2017]. The dual developmental origin of spinal cerebrospinal fluid-contacting neurons gives rise to distinct functional subtypes, Scientific Reports 7:719.

Hubbard J+, Böhm U#, Prendergast A+, Tseng PE, Stokes C+, Newman M, Wyart C@ [2016]. GABAergic sensory neurons project onto key elements of the escape circuit, Current Biology 26: 2841-2853.

Sternberg J#,%, Severi K+,%, Fidelin K, Gomez J, Ihara H, Alcheikh Y, Hubbard J, Kawakami K, Suster M, Wyart C@[2016]. Optimization of Botulinum toxin to probe the role of specific interneurons in innate locomotion. Current Biology, 26: 2319-28.

Fields of research

Computational neurosciences / neural theory

Research Theme

Sensory systems transduce fluctuations in the physical world into patterns of action potentials which are integrated to control motor outputs. Locomotion relies on genetically determined circuits constituted by spinal interneurons and capable of generating oscillations. Local sensory information about the outside world or the internal state seem to alter thesemotor patterns by triggering, stopping or steering locomotion. Although the advent of modern physiology shed some light on the connections of sensory cells and interneurons, most studies were limited to paralyzed preparations where local sensory inputs could not be active. So how are local mechano-, chemo-, and thermo-sensory inputs dynamically recruited in moving animals? And how are they integrated by assemblies of interneurons during locomotion? To elucidate these questions, I propose to study dynamic sensory-motor integration in spinal circuits of the tractable genetic model organism, zebrafish. The transparency of the larva enables to measure and manipulate sensory inputs with light in moving animals. In previous work, we developed in vivo optogenetic approaches for probing spinal circuits.

We identified a new proprioceptive pathway interfacing the spinal circuits with the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). We demonstrated that remote activation of this pathway could trigger slow locomotion. We will now combine optogenetics, population imaging, physiology and quantitative analysis of behaviour in order to elucidate this novel proprioceptive function at the molecular level (Aim 1). We will extend our approach to other sensory pathways in order to unravel when sensory inputs are recruited and how they dynamically shape motor output in moving animals (Aim 2). Aim 3 will unravel how sensory inputs project and select motor patterns at the circuit level. Our studies should solve a fundamental question in neuroscience: how do spinal circuits integrate chemo- and mechano- and thermo-sensory information to produce complex motor patterns.