Somatosensory information processing through spinal commissural neurons

2016 Seed Grant
Alexander Jaworski, Ph.D.
Brown University

Somatosensory information (e.g. touch, temperature, pain) is an essential part of our perception of the outside world. The peripheral sensory neurons that receive this information connect to neurons in the spinal cord, which in turn make connections in the brain. However, the logic of how different sensory inputs are relayed to different brain areas is incompletely understood, partly because a detailed picture of the relevant neural circuits is lacking. We will study the function and connectivity of spinal cord commissural neurons that receive input from sensory neurons on one side of the body and connect to targets on the opposite side of the brain. We will develop and employ novel genetic tools in mice to determine how the type of sensory input to commissural neurons relates to the brain regions these neurons connect to. This work will provide important insights into the circuitry that processes somatosensory information, and it will deliver new tools for the mapping of brain circuits to the scientific community.