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Neuronal network activity behind generation of movements

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Where does the movement of our body come from? Neurons in our nervous system produce commands to the muscle about when to contract. But how are these commands produced? And how are they orchestrated? In this research project we will measure the population activity of the neurons involved in the production of the neural programs responsible for movements.


Movements consists of coordination and orchestration of many different parts of the body into a concerted entity. This is accomplished by the interaction of many neurons, yet we do not know how. Furthermore, this is a central question in neuroscience: how does a single entity arise out of millions of cells? By addressing this question regarding generation of movement, not only do we achieve an important understanding of how the brain produces movement, we also get an understanding of how an emergent entity arises out of a large population of cells in general. This is a fundamental question in neuroscience.


The project will unfold over the next 3-5 years. The first part will consist of an intense series of experiments primarily performed on rodents, while they walk or run. We will record the population activity in two ways, either with electrode arrays, or with optical imaging of the impulse activity. This is quite challenging, but we have already performed pilot experiments, that have proved possible. The second part consists of a comprehensive analysis of the acquired data, and this will be combined with development of models of the principles of network activity. There are two fundamentally different ways the activity can be generated. We will analyse both ways, in order to assess how it is performed in the nervous system.


First, I think it is important that the University of Copenhagen serves two primary purposes in society. First, to provide the highest education, and second, to do expand our scientific horizon. The education that we provide is academic, which entails close contact with basic research, and this research should be among the best in the world. Therefore it is important that scientist teach. With this grant, we will help understand some of the fundamental aspects of the central nervous system, i.e. how we move. We will use the results in our teaching. Also, I will disseminate our results by giving public presentation to lay-man. I have previously been an active participant in e.g. the "Forskningens-døgn", i.e. a non-scientific audience. This is important to me