Roadmap for linking neurological and locomotor deficits
Locomotion deficits, such as lack of coordination, a shuffling gait, or loss of balance, can result from neurological conditions, specifically those that affect motor areas of the nervous system. To develop treatments, scientists often turn to animal models of disease. This strategy is crucial not only for designing potential therapies, but also for gaining insight into fundamental questions about the organisation and function of the nervous system.
Until recently, scientists did not have tools to systematically characterise specific walking deficits in different mouse models of neurological conditions. To solve this problem, Megan Carey’s lab, at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, developed LocoMouse: an automated movement-tracking system that captures the fine details of locomotion in mice.
“It’s like Tolstoy said”, remarks Carey, “all normal locomotion is alike, but every type of abnormal locomotion has its own neural basis.” In this free-style paraphrasing of Tolstoy’s opening sentence of the novel “Anna Karenina”, she captures the essence of her group’s most recent research project.
In a new study published in the scientific journal eLife, Carey’s team uses LocoMouse to identify highly-detailed “locomotor signatures” for two different mouse models. These signatures effectively capture the full pattern of walking deficits of each mouse. Analysing the relationship between the locomotor signatures and the patterns of affected neural circuitry then provides a roadmap for linking neurological and locomotor deficits.
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The team behind the study (from top left to bottom left): Diogo Duarte, Megan Carey, Dana Darmohray, Ana Machado and Hugo Marques.