Skip to main content


Research Groups

Sten Grillner, Ph.D.

Sten Grillner

The Cellular Bases of Motor Behaviour - from Ion Channels to Action

Research Focus

Our main aim is to understand the cellular bases of motor behaviour with a focus on the mechanisms underlying selection of behaviour and the neural bases of in particular locomotion, posture, orienting and eye movements. This in turn requires a detailed knowledge of which nerve cells take part, how they talk to each other through synaptic interaction and an understanding of the intrinsic function of these networks. The properties of the nerve cells within the network can vary greatly and are determined by the palette of ion channels expressed and also other gene products. Essentially our research extends from ion channels and synapses to network mechanisms and behaviour utilizing a multitude of techniques from patch clamp and cellular imaging to modelling and studies of behaviour. We utilize preferentially the lamprey as model organism but also mammalian models for the studies of posture and selection mechanisms.

We have been able, based on detailed cellular knowledge, to successfully model the networks responsible for the command and pattern generating systems for locomotion including steering and posture. Our work continues with several foci including the role of the basal ganglia for selection of different patterns of motor behaviour, tectum for steering and eye motor coordination, the physiological role of different modulator systems acting through the spinal networks, and different ion channel subtypes contributing to neuronal function.

Selected Publications

Grillner S

Biological pattern generation: The cellular and computational logic of networks in motion.

Neuron 52: 751-766, 2006

Grillner S, Hellgren J, Ménard A, Saitoh K, Wikström M

Mechanisms for selection of basic motor programs  roles for the striatum and pallidum.

Trends in Neuroscience 28: 364-370, 2005

Cangiano L, Grillner S

Mechanisms of rhythm generation in a spinal locomotor network deprived of crossed connections: The lamprey hemicord.

Journal of Neuroscience 25: 923-935, 2005.

Grillner S, Markram H, De Schutter E, Silberberg G, LeBeau FEN

Microcircuits in action - from CPGs to neocortex.

Trends in Neuroscience 28: 525-533, 2005

Grillner S

The motor infrastructure: From ion channels to neuronal networks.

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 4: 573-586, 2003