Zampieri Lab

Zampieri Lab

Development and Function of Neural Circuits

Profile

The execution of coordinated movements depends on the ability to dynamically adapt motor plans to external conditions and perturbations. Spinal circuits integrate motor commands and sensory information in order to generate precise patterns of muscle activation. The detection of different sensory stimuli and their integration with descending commands from the brain and local spinal networks is therefore critical for motor control. Our laboratory studies the mechanisms controlling assembly and function of spinal sensorimotor circuits by combining transcriptomics, genetics, tracing, and behavioral analyses to reveal how these circuits are first organized during development and then function in controlling movement and coding of sensory information.

Team

Research

We are always looking for enthusiastic and motivated people. Here is a list of current projects running in the laboratory, if you have a passion for neuroscience and are curious about how the nervous system detect sensory information and use it to control movement please reach out.

The sixth sense, proprioceptive sensory neurons and circuits controlling the sense of body position in space

The execution of coordinated movements depends on proprioception, the sense of body  position in space. The main source of proprioceptive information in vertebrates is represented by specialized mechanoreceptive organs - muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs - found in skeletal muscles. These structures are innervated by proprioceptive sensory afferents and detect muscle stretch and tension. The central nervous system integrates this information in order to generate a three-dimensional model of the body that is used to plan, execute, and adjust movements. Despite the importance of muscle sensory feedback for motor control the organization and function of different proprioceptive circuits is still not clear. We used a transcriptomic approach to unravel the molecular foundation of mouse proprioceptor subtype identity and discovered signatures that define proprioceptors innervating different muscle groups (Dietrich et al., Nat. Commun. 2022), by leveraging this knowledge we are designing a genetic toolbox to target different components of the proprioceptive system and define their roles in the control of movement.

An intraspinal mechano and chemosensory system for motor control

A century ago, Kolmer and Agduhr first described a peculiar population of spinal sensory neurons lining the central canal and extending a ciliated protrusion into its lumen. Because of their morphology, anatomical location, and conservation in all vertebrates, they proposed that cerebrospinal fluid-contacting neurons (CSF-cN) constitute an internal sensory organ relaying chemical and mechanical information from the CSF. We analyzed CSF-cN function in mice and found specific defects in skilled locomotion suggesting the hypothesis that CSF-cN monitor spinal bending and provide an additional source of proprioceptive information that is used to precisely adjust body and limbs movements (Gerstmann et al., Curr. Biol. 2022). We seek to define the type of sensory information relayed by CSF-cN, how it is detected and integrated with other sensory feedback systems, and its specific contributions to motor control.

The organization and function of spinal circuits for integration of sensorimotor information

A critical aspect of motor control is the seamless coordination in the movement of different parts of the body. Limbs and trunk movements have to be regulated in a concerted fashion to allow the generation of complex motor actions. At spinal level, this important task is controlled by propriospinal neurons. These neurons resides and connect within the spinal cord, forming circuits that wire different segmental levels, thus providing channels for exchanging motor and sensory information to coordinate and adjust forelimb, hindlimb and trunk movements. While the existence and importance of propriospinal neurons has been appreciated for over one hundred years, the precise composition and roles of these circuits are still not  known yet. By combining anatomical tracing techniques, transcriptome analysis and functional interrogation at a behavioral level, we seek to define molecular idenitity, connectivity and function of propriospinal neurons.

Publications

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X-mas glühwein 2022

Bowling July 2022

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Lab dinner July 2020

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Lab dinner November 2018

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Tiergarten 5X5 relay 2017

Lab dinner October 2016

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Lab dinner November 2015

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