ERC Advanced Grant for Silvia Arber

This year’s recipients of the prestigious Advanced Grants from the European Research Council (ERC) have been announced today. The neurobiologist Prof. Silvia Arber, research group leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute and the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, is among the awardees. Her funded project aims at understanding how brainstem neurons interact in the motor system to control generation and learning of body movements.

The goal of the ERC Advanced Grants is to support established, leading principal investigators to pursue a groundbreaking and high-risk project. As all ERC grants, they are in high demand and therefore very competitive. This year, of the 746 research proposals that were submitted in the Life Sciences domain, 62 (8%) were selected for funding, including 7 in the field of neuroscience.

Silvia Arber is an expert in the field of motor circuit function, and investigates the neuronal circuits controlling motor behavior. Her research contributes substantially to a better understanding of the interplay between brain, spinal cord and muscles and has enabled the assignment of particular movement patterns to specific neuronal circuits. It is the third time that she is awarded an ERC grant. Hers brings the total number of ERC grants received by FMI scientists to 28 (since inception of the program in 2007).

In their ERC project entitled “InterAct’, Silvia and her team will study neurons in the brainstem - an important switchboard between higher order movement planning centers in the brain and the executive circuits in the spinal cord. In past work, the Arber group identified separate neuronal populations in the brainstem dedicated to the regulation of specific behaviors. These include circuits controlling movements as diverse as the full body behavior walking or fine movements involving arms and fingers needed to reach and manipulate objects with precision. Using this knowledge as entry point, the researchers will tackle this key question in the future project: How does the nervous system select these dedicated brainstem neurons to regulate behavior?

The project will elucidate the circuit mechanisms by which brainstem neurons interact in the motor system, thereby uncovering principles of how the nervous system generates diverse actions. This knowledge will be essential for the treatment of motor disorders.

’ More about the Arber group
’ ERC media release
’ Uni Basel media release