School of Brain Cells & Circuits "Camillo Golgi"

Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture, Erice (Italy)

Programme 2018

The Neural Bases of Action – from cellular microcircuits to large-scale networks and modelling.

Course Directors: Egidio D’Angelo, Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott & Sten Grillner

Date: 11th December – 15th December 2018


The 2018 Course of the School of Brain Cells and Circuits will be dedicated to multiscale investigation and modeling of the motor system. Motor control is a fundamental function that characterizes the animal kingdom and has driven brain evolution toward cognition. Therefore, understanding motor control is a fundamental step for understanding how the whole brain is organized and operates. The fundamental brain structures of vertebrates that are involved will be covered in turn, including the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, cerebellum, brain stem and spinal cord. Special attention will also be given to pathologies emerging from dysfunctions of the motor system. Different aspects motor control will be addressed at the level of cellular physiology, computational modeling and integrated brain signals using electrophysiological techniques and magnetic resonance imaging. Mathematical modeling will be emphasized for its special effectiveness in tackling motor control problems and for explaining the function of the system across multiple complexity scales. By bringing together these communities and offering advanced teaching sessions and discussion panels on key topics, the course will foster future research in the field and will make a strong methodological case on how to combine experimental and modeling approaches in order to explain how the brain works.

Tuesday 11-12-2018
Arrival and  

evening reception in the “Marsala cellar” (9pm to midnight)

Wednesday 12-12-2018

I – The motor system: a multiscale perspective
Foreword: This section will introduce motor control and learning on a broad evolutionary perspective, including brain circuit organization, cellular and microcircuit properties and system theory. The field has been pioneered by major investigations – carried out on several fronts by scientists including Eccles, Llinas, Ito and Marr, giving insight into the structure-function relationship issue of the whole brain. The multiscale perspective will be given special relevance along with the need to combine experimental and modeling techniques.

8:30 – Introduction to the course.
“The motor system as a paradigm for brain investigation.”
Egidio D’Angelo (University of Pavia, Italy), Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott (UCL, London & University of Pavia, Italy), Sten Grillner (Karolinska Institute, Sweden)

9:00 – “OPENING LECTURE: The brainstem control of action.”Silvia Arber (Basel, Switzerland)

9:45 – “Biological evolution and multiscale organization of the motor system: from ion channels to behaviour.
Sten Grillner (Karolinska Institute, Sweden)

10:30-11:00 Coffee break & poster display

II – Cellular and microcircuit physiology
Foreword: This section will present the most recent concepts and discoveries about the cellular organization and function of the motor system. The focus will be on physiology of two well-studied key structures of the motor system – the cerebellum and the spinal cord – in vitro and in vivo in different animal experimental models.

11:00 – “Cerebellar neurons and circuit changes during plasticity”
Henrik Jorntell (Lund, Sweden)

11:45 – “The operation of microcircuits in the spinal cord”
Abdel El Manira (Karolinska Institute, Sweden)

12:30-14:15 Lunch

III – Motor system organization and activation in humans
Foreword: This section will deal with the general organization and structure of the motor system in humans. Much relevance will be given to MRI techniques that allow direct investigation of the motor system and motor functions. This section will face immediately the problem of scaling up from physiology investigated in animal systems to humans in vivo highlighting the importance of MRI techniques at 360 degrees. The concepts of connectome, microstructure, fMRI will be introduced as they are needed for the next two days of the course, in which basic science will be reconnected to medicine.

14:15 – “Architecture of the entire motor system in humans.”
Gabriele DeLuca (Oxford, UK)

15:00 – “Cerebellar interactions with a hierarchically organised motor system”
Narender Ramnani (Royal Holloway, UK)

15:45-16:15 Coffee break

16:15 – “Using diffusion MRI to reconstruct tissue microstruture: from signal to neurons”
Gary H Zhang (UCL, UK)

17:00 – “Macromolecules and connectivity in the motor system.”
Mara Cercignani (Brighton & Sussex Medical School, UK)

17:30 – Chair: Shyam Diwakar (Amrita, India)
Poster blitz (10 posters, 3 min each, 1 slide)

18:00-19:00 Aperitif & posters

Thursday 13-12-2018

IV – High-level organization of the motor system function 
Foreword: This section will provide a high-level framework to conceptualize motor control along with cognition and learning. Several examples will be given, scaling up from mice to monkeys and humans and using different techniques, from electrophysiology to EMG and MRI in humans.

8:30 – “Consciousness, predictions and the hierarchical organization of behavior.”
Cyriel Pennartz (Amsterdam, NL)

9:15 – “Control of human locomotion: a developmental and comparative perspective.”
Francesco Lacquaniti (Rome, Italy)

10:00 – Chair: Shyam Diwakar (Amrita, India)
Poster blitz (10 posters, 3 min each, 1 slide)

10:30-11:00 Coffee break & posters

11:00 – “The role of cerebral cortex and basal ganglia in the control of movement.”
Rui Costa (Columbia University, USA)

11:45 – “The roles of cerebellum in motor learning and control.”
Chris De Zeeuw (Rotterdam, NL)

12:30-14:30 Lunch

14:30 –  “The role of spinal cord in the control of movement”
Robert Brownstone (UCL, UK)

15:15 – “Motor pathways and function in humans in vivo: the cerebro-cerebellar loop.”
Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott (UCL, UK & University of Pavia, Italy)

16:00 – Chair: Shyam Diwakar (Amrita, India)
Poster blitz (10 posters, 3 min each, 1 slide)

16:30-17:00 Coffee break & posters

17:00 V – DEBATE: When things go wrong: key unresolved questions 
Foreword: This debate will confront basic science with a more clinically oriented perspective of the motor system in diseases. E.g. motor control is altered in specific pathologies like Parkinson disease, dystonia, and ataxia, in diffuse pathologies affecting all areas of the motor system (spinal cord, cerebellum and cerebral cortex) like MS and in post-traumatic diseases, where specific circuit sections are damaged in the first place. We will focus on a few examples with the aim to highlight potential unresolved questions that will be recorded and reconsidered in the last debate of day 3 in light of bridging the gap with modeling.

Lead discussants:
Paola Giunti (UCL, UK) – Cerebellar ataxia: a disease of the motor system
Gabriele de Luca (Oxford, UK) – Multiple Sclerosis: a diffuse multi-focal disease
Robert Brownstone (UCL, UK) – Spinal cord injury: a traumatic disease
Francesco Laquaniti (Roma, Italy) – Cerebral palsy in human infants


Friday 14-12-2018

VI – Models of motor microcircuits and control systems 
Foreword: This section will consider how current knowledge on motor system can be integrated across scales by means of bottom up modeling of motor function. This new strategy is gaining interest not just because the local microcircuits can be precisely investigated in silico, but also because it can lead to robotic applications. Furthermore, realistic robots can, in turn, extend and evaluate the fundamental motor theories and promote clinical translation.

9:00 – “Multiscale organization and modeling of cerebellum: insights and perspectives for motor learning and control.”
Egidio D’Angelo (University of Pavia, Italy)

9:45 – “Integration of neuronal activity and plasticity in the cerebro-cerebellar loops during robotic simulations.”
Claudia Casellato (University of Pavia, Italy) & Silvia Tolu (Copenaghen, Denmark)

10:30-11:00 Coffee break & posters

11:00 – “Multiscale organization and modeling of basal ganglia.”
Jeanette Hellgren Kotalesky (Karolinska Institute, Sweden)

11:45 – “The control of walking and swimming – simulations and robotic implementations.”
Auke Ijspeert (EPFL, Lausanne)

12:30-13:00 Photo at the castle
13:00-14:45 Lunch

14:45 – “Brain models: an integrated approach.”
Viktor Jirsa (CNRS, France)

15:45 VII – DEBATE: Multiscale modeling strategies bridging experiments and theory to answer clinical questions about motor dysfunctions 
Foreword: This debate will focus on how multiscale modeling strategies, by bridging observations and theory, can help answering clinical questions about motor dysfunctions. Here all the elements of the course are brought together.

Lead discussants:
Gary H Zhang (UCL, UK) – The MRI view point
Egidio D’Angelo (University of Pavia, Italy) & Sten Grillner (Karolinska Institute, Sweden) – The physiology view point
Chris De Zeeuw (Rotterdam, NL) – The motor system view point
Silvia Tolu (Copenaghen, Denmark) & Claudia Casellato (University of Pavia) – The robotics view point

17:30 – 18:00 Poster prize and adjournment

Saturday 15-12-2018


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