The intrinsic logic of neural networks controlling defined circuit functions and behaviours in the central nervous system is a fundamental issue of neuroscience. We study the central control of breathing, a classical model system to (i) perform integrative neurobiology and (ii) extend the significance of developmental biology, beyond anatomical organization to the level of network assembly and function.
Focusing on the inception of this circuit, we are identifying in the mouse embryo, the progenitor domains that give rise to distinct components of the network that have a vital fate. We are using developmental genetics tools, to fate map, follow the migration, impair the connectivity, invalidate and actuate selective neuronal populations in the circuit, to derive the operating principles, provide constituent cells with molecular identities and reveal early pre-disposition to dysfunctions. We intend to make sense of cellular identities now investigating cells’ functional and anatomical connectivities respectively, by optogenetics combined to phase modulation of optical wave-fronts, and by monosynaptic viral tracing.