Martha W. Bagnall, PhD

Assistant Professor

Neurosciences Program

  • 362-9695

  • 362-5053

  • 480 McDonnell Sciences



  • Microcircuitry of sensory-motor transformations in the zebrafish

Research Abstract:

The nervous system translates sensory inputs into appropriate motor outputs. Although sensory inputs are processed in diverse and complex fashions, most of the results of their computations are eventually filtered through a shared end-point: the motor circuits of the spinal cord. The long term goal of our research is to address two major aspects of motor control:

1) What is the structure of the spinal microcircuit, and what are the functional synaptic properties of its connections? How do these output circuits serve to combine behavioral modules for optimal movements?

2) How do descending commands, especially those from the vestibular (balance) system, operate on spinal microcircuits to elicit behavior?

Mentorship and Commitment to Diversity Statement:
Graduate school is an exciting time that stretches students to build on their strengths and develop new skills. It can also be a frustrating time as students compare their scientific visions with the realities of their data. My job as a mentor is to meet each student (and postdoc) where they are, and support their transition to independent success. To this end, I meet with everyone weekly or more frequently, ensure that lab meetings are a chance to develop intellectually as a group, and encourage trainees to take ownership of their projects so that we battle the challenges of research side by side.

Science is hard enough even when everything is going well; it is nearly impossible when you don't feel comfortable in your own lab. My goal is that all members of the lab, regardless of identity, feel supported and respected every day in their research and in their lives. This principle guides our daily choices, and I encourage anyone considering this lab to talk with lab members for their perspectives.

Selected Publications:

Central Vestibular Tuning Arises from Patterned Convergence of Otolith Afferents.
Liu Z, Kimura Y, Higashijima SI, Hildebrand DGC, Morgan JL, Bagnall MW.
Neuron. 2020 Nov 25;108(4):748-762.e4.

Spinal V2b neurons reveal a role for ipsilateral inhibition in speed control.
Callahan RA, Roberts R, Sengupta M, Kimura Y, Higashijima SI, Bagnall MW.
Elife. 2019 Jul 29;8:e47837.

Delayed Otolith Development Does Not Impair Vestibular Circuit Formation in Zebrafish.
Roberts R, Elsner J, Bagnall MW.
J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2017 Jun;18(3):415-425.

Systematic shifts in the balance of excitation and inhibition coordinate the activity of axial motor pools at different speeds of locomotion.
Kishore S, Bagnall MW, McLean DL.
J Neurosci. 2014 Oct 15;34(42):14046-54.

Modular organization of axial microcircuits in zebrafish.
Bagnall MW, McLean DL.
Science. 2014 Jan 10;343(6167):197-200.

Multiple clusters of release sites formed by individual thalamic afferents onto cortical interneurons ensure reliable transmission.
Bagnall MW, Hull C, Bushong EA, Ellisman MH, Scanziani M.
Neuron. 2011 Jul 14;71(1):180-94.

Bidirectional plasticity gated by hyperpolarization controls the gain of postsynaptic firing responses at central vestibular nerve synapses.
McElvain LE, Bagnall MW, Sakatos A, du Lac S.
Neuron. 2010 Nov 18;68(4):763-75.

Glycinergic projection neurons of the cerebellum.
Bagnall MW, Zingg B, Sakatos A, Moghadam SH, Zeilhofer HU, du Lac S.
J Neurosci. 2009 Aug 12;29(32):10104-10.

Frequency-independent synaptic transmission supports a linear vestibular behavior.
Bagnall MW, McElvain LE, Faulstich M, du Lac S.
Neuron. 2008 Oct 23;60(2):343-52.

Transgenic mouse lines subdivide medial vestibular nucleus neurons into discrete, neurochemically distinct populations.
Bagnall MW, Stevens RJ, du Lac S.
J Neurosci. 2007 Feb 28;27(9):2318-30.

Last Updated: 3/22/2021 1:31:05 PM

Vestibular neurons (bottom) imaged in vivo projecting axons to spinal cord
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