BEER-SHEVA, Israel...November 18, 2019 - Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California were awarded a $14.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for brain and cervical spine research.
The five-year research project will provide a better understanding of how the brain controls movement, as well as how neurological diseases and spinal cord injuries compromise arm, wrist and hand function. Little is understood about the composition and structure of brain circuits within the cervical spine, located in the neck, which control activities such as grabbing a cup, throwing darts or playing guitar.
In this project, BGU Prof. David Golomb of the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at BGU, will explore how spinal networks in the cervical spinal cord shift from rhythmic to non-rhythmic, dexterous movements, and how these networks convert commands from the brain to movements of wrists and ankles. Prof. Golomb also heads the BGU Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience and Inter-Faculty Brain Sciences School.
"We are quite excited about this team-research program for its focus on a mechanistic understanding of the cervical spinal cord," says Karen David, program director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH. "Specifically, this program will address the circuit basis of forelimb movements such as reaching and grasping--critical functions within our daily lives."
Scientists need to better understand the fundamental biology of how the brain and spinal cord works to develop new treatments. The researchers will create a high-resolution atlas of how the mouse brain generates and controls skilled forelimb movements. The team will create a high-resolution database with information about how the neurons communicate with one another and how each neuron contributes to skilled movement. The database will also include information about the neurons' molecular and electrophysiological properties, providing more information on the makeup of each cell. Lastly, the researchers will develop testable, predictive models of each neural loop to explore the network of interactions that occur in moving a limb.
Prof. Martyn Goulding at Salk will lead a spinal cord circuit team, which includes Profs. Samuel Pfaff, Tatyana Sharpee, Axel Nimmerjahn, and Eiman Azim. This study is supported by the NIH BRAIN Initiative (1U19NS112959-01).
About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk's mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology, and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer's, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin. Learn more at: http://www.salk.edu
About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) looks ahead to turning 50 in 2020, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit vision.aabgu.org to learn more. AABGU, headquartered in Manhattan, has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information visit http://www.aabgu.org.