David Ehrlich

Position title: Assistant Professor

Email: dehrlich@wisc.edu


Integrative Biology


Ph.D. in Neuroscience – Emory University

Research Description:

The nervous system orchestrates an incredible array of actions by coordinating movements across the body. Using coordination we make music, play sports, communicate, and move about the world. Even an act as routine as walking requires moving our legs, arms, trunks, and heads in conjunction, and we do it all without a conscious thought. Research in my lab addresses how brains transform movement goals into patterns of activity that coordinate muscles across the body, and how cells and synapses encode learning about coordination – particularly as developing animals discover new and better ways to move.
 We study zebrafish as they first learn to swim, when their movements are rudimentary because their bodies are simple. Still, by combining these movements zebrafish can make elegant actions like hunting prey, evading predators, and navigating flows. Zebrafish possess miniature versions of key neural structures we use to coordinate our bodies like the cerebellum, brainstem, and spinal cord. And because they are transparent, zebrafish offer unrivaled access to the inner workings of these structures. We use electrodes to reveal the operations of individual cells and synapses, and we image activity across cell populations spanning the entire brain. Our approach affords a unique opportunity to explain not only how neural circuits pattern movements across the body, but also how synapses let neurons cooperate within those circuits. These precise recordings are essential for understanding where and how learning remodels the brain.

Key Words:

Behavior, Motor Control, Neurophysiology, Neural Circuit Development, Learning

Link to Lab Website

Link to Publications