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Sensory and motor systems

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Movement is central to any behavioural response and the cerebellum is the largest motor control centre in the brain. Thus research into the control of voluntary movements are focused on this structure, in particular the climbing fibre pathways linking the inferior olive to the cerebellum. Different zones within the cerebellum receive inputs from well-defined regions of the inferior olive and project to specific vestibular and cerebellar nuclei. However, recent evidence suggests that individual modules do not necessarily have distinct functions in motor control.

Much of the work on neuronal sensory mechanisms centres on the detection and perception of noxious stimuli such as excess heat, cold and pain - nociception. For instance, recent work has shown that spinal noxious- and innocuous-cold circuits are differentially modulated and that mTOR may represent a novel therapeutic route for pharmacological intervention in persistent pain We also focus on how nociception and pain may be controlled both by endogenous neural mechanisms and through the development of novel therapeutic approaches.

Work on the sensory cells and neurones of the inner ear address the detection and encoding of sound. We are interested in the development and maturation of mechanotransduction and synaptic function of hair cells, with a particular focus on the role of calcium signalling in these processes. In addition, we study the very earliest stages of neuronal development, specifically how they segregate to produce neurones that are specialised for auditory and vestibular function and how they target appropriate inner ear sensory organs.

This area contributes to the wider Neuroscience research theme within the School of Physiology and Pharmacology.