Martha W. Bagnall, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Department of Neuroscience
Institution
Washington University School of Medicine
Address
Campus Box 8108
City, State, Zip
St. Louis, MO 63110
Phone
(314) 362-9695
E-mail
bagnall[at]wustl.edu
Website
http://pcg.wustl.edu/bagnalllab/
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2016

Research

I will investigate how the nervous system senses spatial orientation and routes this information through the spinal cord in order to shape motor activity. Vertebrates use a complex circuit of neurons to coordinate movement and balance—a system that begins with nerve cells in the ears and extends through the spinal cord to activate the muscles that regulate posture and keep the animal upright. This so-called "vestibular" system begins operating early in development and in many different species: Larval zebrafish, for example, can sense when they are lying on their sides and will contract their body muscles to right themselves. I will use larval zebrafish as a model system to explore how individual neurons in the vestibular system behave when the animal is tilted in different directions, and how these nerve cells relay this information to the spinal nerves that allow the animal to twist its body to regain an upright posture. These findings could inform the development of devices that can help people regain their balance and posture, abilities that can be impaired by injury or disease.