January 01, 2013

How does the brain motivate us to move?: Anatol Kreitzer

Anatol Kreitzer
Our guest this month is Anatol Kreitzer, assistant professor of physiology and neurology at UCSF and a scientist at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes. Dr. Kreitzer has made pioneering discoveries in the study of the neural circuits that control movement. His lab is interested in the function of the basal ganglia, a structure deep in the brain that controls movement, motivation, and action selection. Dysfunction of the basal ganglia can lead to movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease where patients have difficulty either initiating or controlling movements.

To understand how the basal ganglia works, the Kreitzer lab records electrical activity from neurons within the basal ganglia and determines how it relates to movement in behaving mice. They can also control this activity using an emerging technique known as optogenetics. By delivering genes coding for light-sensitive proteins into specific neurons, scientists in the lab can manipulate the electrical activity of certain neurons to see how movement is affected. This technique is being used to study the cells in the basal ganglia that guide our actions based on previous experience. Dr. Kreitzer’s work has provided significant insights into how the basal ganglia works and may eventually lead to potential cures for movement disorders.

More on the Kreitzer Lab's research

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