Research and Funding

As you read the text on this website, take a moment to reflect on all the coordinated motor activity your brain has produced to bring you here: you have walked to your office, coordinated multiple muscles in order to sit at your desk, and have precisely controlled a mouse or track pad in order to navigate your computer desktop. The unsung hero of the brain that helps you accomplish all this is the cerebellum, which plays a prominent role in motor control and learning. Diseases that affect the cerebellum are called ataxias: they result in lack of motor control and movement incoordination.

Our lab focuses on the development of brain circuits in both the healthy cerebellum and in animal models of ataxias, including spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6) and ataxia of the Charlevoix-Saguenay region (ARSACS). We address fundamental questions about brain development, such as understanding the role of spontaneous neuronal activity in the developing cerebellum. We also aim to understand the pathophysiology that underlies the onset of disease symptoms in ataxias, since this may lead to new insights into treatments or prevention for these devastating human disorders.

Our lab uses several approaches including electrophysiology, two-photon imaging, transgenic mouse technology, optogenetics, and behavioural assays in order to study cerebellar development in healthy mice and in mouse models of ataxia.

First 2-photon imaged Purkinje cell in Watt lab.
Cerebellar Purkinje cells (green) and granule cells (red).

Projections of 2-photon image stacks from transgenic mice expressing eGFP in Purkinje cells.
Photo: Daneck Lang-Ouellette