Our laboratories research program has two long-term aims. First, we want to contribute to the establishment of a molecular and cellular understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the connectivity, development and function of the synapses and circuits that constitute motor system neuronal networks. Second, we strive to illuminate the processes through which human neurodegenerative diseases impede the motor system in order to exploit this knowledge to develop effective therapies for these disorders.
In pursuit of both of these goals, we primarily investigate the motor system of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Drosophila shares not only extensive genetic conservation to humans but also has many of the same morphological, physiological and behavioural complexities. However, the Drosophila brain and peripheral nervous system are orders of magnitude smaller than that of humans, which coupled with powerful molecular genetic tools, allows in vivo experimental access of unparalleled sophistication and precision. Supporting the essential commonality of motor circuit and synapse function across evolution, we continue to validate our findings from Drosophila in rodent models and, where possible, humans.
Members of the lab combine their expertise in genetics, imaging, electrophysiology, behaviour, genome engineering, molecular biology and biochemistry to collaborate on a number of projects arising from our isolation of mutants that disrupt synapse and circuit development and from our generation and scrutiny of models of human neurological disease.