9 May 2023

Rune Berg receives the Hallas-Møller Ascending Investigator grant of DKK 10,000,000


Rune Berg’s project titled “Pulling the strings: The brain-spinal machinery that generates movement sequences in health and disease” is among the annual four projects to receive the Hallas-Møller Ascending Investigator grant.

Rune Berg

Every day, we elegantly and effortlessly move our bodies. The brain generates the commands to contract muscles and, in this way, orchestrates the motion. But how do we do it? How do our brains do it? It is a fundamental part of our lives, yet we do not understand the roots and the mechanisms of how even seemingly simple movements are produced. In this research proposal, we will measure the neuronal population activity across central brain regions and the spinal cord, to uncover the fundamental mechanisms behind movement. In particular, we will characterize the real-time interaction between autonomous networks in the spinal cord, which are responsible for walking and other types of movement, while we assess the interaction with regions in the brain using optogenetics and a viral strategy. This will provide unique and crucial information on the generation of sequences of neuronal activity behind movement. It will help us to develop a theoretical framework of how different types of neurons interact with each other. The theory will be rooted in experimentally inferred architecture from a combination of single cell RNA sequencing and spatial transcriptomics and we will perturb various regions in the system to gauge their influence on the execution of movement. Understanding the foundation of how neural sequences propagate in these circuits will not only to satisfy our curiosity on how we move, it may explain the impact of circuit disruption from stroke or spinal cord injuries. We suggest this project will introduce a path forward to both achieving a basic comprehension of the motor system and introduce a clinical therapy for conditions where the motor circuitry is affected.

The Hallas-Møller Ascending Investigator grant will support the project with DKK 10,000,000 over the next five years.