Bidaye Lab

We study Neuronal Control of Locomotion

Salil Bidaye

Research Group Leader

(561) 972-9000


Dr. Bidaye started his Research Group Leader position at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in April 2021, leading the Neuronal Control of Locomotion group. His research focuses on understanding how fast and precise locomotor decisions are executed at the level of genetically defined neural circuits.

Prior to this Dr. Bidaye was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California – Berkeley in the lab of Professor Kristin Scott. Before that, he earned his Ph.D. at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Vienna in Dr. Barry Dickson’s laboratory. Over the course of his doctoral and postdoctoral work, Dr. Bidaye has established an independent research program centered around understanding motor control using Drosophila walking as a model system. While a Ph.D. student, Bidaye discovered the neurons that constitute the central pathway for backward directed walking in fruit-flies, dubbed the “moonwalker neurons”. This work has spurred several studies aimed at understanding how animals instantaneously switch their walking directions in response to sensory stimuli. During his postdoctoral work, Bidaye used Drosophila genetics tools to address another fundamental question pertaining to locomotor control: how do animals initiate walking? This led to the identification of two distinct brain pathways that initiate distinct forward walking programs. Functional characterization of these neurons uncovered how contextual information impinges on sensory-motor circuits to achieve task-specific walking control. This work not only characterizes the central nodes in the walking circuit of the fly but also provides genetic tools to begin unraveling the downstream circuits essential for executing an optimal walking pattern.

Research Topic

A simple walk from the sofa to the refrigerator involves numerous decisions that generate an extremely precise maneuvering to avoid obstacles and optimize one’s path. How animals perform such fast and precise locomotor decisions is not known and understanding this could provide essential breakthroughs in a variety of fields ranging from rehabilitation to robotics. The Bidaye lab studies the neural circuit logic of these locomotor decisions using the fruit-fly (Drosophila melanogaster) as a model system.

Drosophila has a numerically simple nervous system and yet shows a rich locomotor repertoire involving complex walking and flight behaviors. Moreover, with an unparalleled genetic toolkit and the emerging connectomics data, it offers a unique opportunity to obtain cellular resolution understanding of complex locomotor control. We will use a combination of techniques including behavioral assays, optogenetics, multiphoton imaging, and electrophysiology to precisely quantify and model these locomotor decisions across multiple levels:

  • At a single neuron level, we will elucidate how physiology of a central neuron in the locomotor circuit is tuned to achieve context specific locomotor outputs.
  • At a neural circuit level, we will characterize how specific neuronal ensembles and pathways encode features of naturalistic locomotion.
  • At a systems level, we will address how interactions and hierarchy among these locomotor pathways lead to organization of behaviors across long timescales.

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