The goal of our research is to better understand how hindbrain and spinal cord networks control locomotive behavior, such as walking or swimming. More specifically, we areinterested in how brain and spinal cord networks are assembled during animal development, how they function, and how they are controlled.  

We use the zebrafish embryo to study these networks because it has several features that make it a great model system. The embryos demonstrate strong swimming behavior, their nervous systems have a more simple organization compared to those in mammals, the embryos are transparent so development can be easily observed, and we can use the power of zebrafish genetics to investigate nervous system function. These features allow us to take an integrated genetic, molecular, cellular, and behavioral approach to study the hindbrain and spinal cord networks that orchestrate locomotive behavior. Since the organization of the hindbrain and spinal cord is broadly conserved among vertebrates, our work provides insight into mammalian systems and establishes new models of human disease.


Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, 611 N Pleasant St, Amherst, MA, 01003 
gbdownes@bio.umass.edu | (413) 545 1266

Last Modified 2015 ©Gerald B. Downes

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