Eiman Azim - Sensorimotor circuits for dexterous movement

Event Details:

Thursday, February 15, 2024
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12:00pm to 1:00pm PST
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Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
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Join the speaker for coffee, cookies, and conversation before the talk, starting at 11:45am.

Sensorimotor circuits for dexterous movement


A critical challenge for the mammalian motor system is managing the intricate coordination of dozens of limb muscles to interact with the world with speed and dexterity. Coordinated movements emerge from dynamic interactions between feedforward command pathways that induce muscle contraction and feedback pathways that report and refine movement. Yet within this general framework, the specific mechanisms by which command and feedback interact remain poorly understood. Combining molecular, anatomical, electrophysiological, behavioral, and modeling approaches in mice, our work focuses on defining how interactions between motor and sensory circuits throughout the neuraxis establish the coordination and precision of dexterous behaviors.

I will focus on complementary projects at different ends of the sensorimotor system: circuits that regulate the impact that sensory feedback has on movement, and circuits that adjust feedforward commands to ensure accuracy and precision. 1) While dexterity relies on the constant transmission of sensory information, unchecked feedback can be disruptive to behavior. We have uncovered anatomical and functional circuit architecture in the brainstem cuneate nucleus that can attenuate or amplify tactile feedback from the hands to facilitate successful behavior. We are now exploring how top-down pathways bidirectionally regulate the transmission of somatosensory information to ensure appropriate sensitivity to the environment. 2) The cerebellum is essential for coordinating a vast array of motor behaviors. A prominent theory in the field is that outgoing motor commands are copied and conveyed to the cerebellum to generate predictions of impending movement outcome that can be used to update ongoing motor output. We are exploring the organization and function of cerebellar input and output pathways that facilitate rapid refinement to enable dexterity. Toward these goals, we are also developing new quantitative assays as well computer vision and machine learning-based data analysis approaches for more high-throughput, unbiased perspectives on movement execution.

Eiman Azim, Ph.D.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

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Eiman Azim is an Associate Professor and the William Scandling Developmental Chair in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Eiman explores how the brain controls movement of the body, focusing on dexterous behaviors, such as grasping a cup of coffee or catching a ball. These kinds of movements are central to our daily experience, and unfortunately, they are particularly susceptible to injury and disease of the nervous system. His laboratory takes advantage of cutting-edge genetic and viral tools, techniques for recording the activity of the brain and spinal cord, detailed motor behavioral tests, and computational approaches to piece together the underpinnings of skilled movements. This type of knowledge could clarify how the brain achieves such astounding coordination and pave the way for improved diagnosis and treatment when neural circuits are disrupted. 

Eiman earned a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Philosophy of Science from Stanford and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard before completing postdoctoral training at Columbia. Eiman is also an Associate Adjunct Professor in Neurobiology at UC San Diego. He is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the NIH Pathway to Independence Award, and was named a Searle Scholar, a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, a Kathryn W. Davis Aging Brain Scholar, and a McKnight Scholar.

Hosted by - Daniel J O'Shea, Ph.D. (Deisseroth Lab)

About the Wu Tsai Neuro Seminar Series

The Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute seminar series brings together the Stanford neuroscience community to discuss cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary brain research, from biochemistry to behavior and beyond.

Topics include new discoveries in fundamental neurobiology; advances in human and translational neuroscience; insights from computational and theoretical neuroscience; and the development of novel research technologies and neuro-engineering breakthroughs.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held Thursdays at 12:00 noon PT.

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