Research Interests

Sten Grillner has unravelled the intrinsic function of the modular network organization underlying fundamental aspects of our motor repertoire. His initial work defined the basic organisation of the mammalian locomotor system in terms of supraspinal command systems, spinal networks coordinating the movements (CPGs), and the sensory control of the CPGs. To address the next level question - the molecular, cellular and synaptic design of these neuronal circuits - he developed a novel and simpler vertebrate model (lamprey). The different network interneurons, their synaptic interaction (transmitters, receptor subtypes), and their membrane properties (ion channel subtypes expressed) have been identified. The palette of different subtypes of ion channels expressed in different neurones is found to be of critical importance for network function. Through an interaction between detailed multi-faceted experimentation and large scale modelling with biophysically realistic numbers of Hodgkin-Huxley neurons, the operation of this entire motor control system has been uncovered. This conserved system is understood at a cellular/molecular level, and the conceptual gap between gene/molecule and behaviour has been bridged. We now understand the design of the neuronal subsystems coordinating goal-directed ambulation. In focus is now the forebrain systems that are responsible for selection of different patterns of behavior.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 24: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience