Research Fellows Directory
Dr Wenchang Li
University of St Andrews
Vertebrate spinal cord and brain stem control movements but their anatomy and physiology are poorly understood in mammals or humans. One main reason for the slow progresses is the vast complexity of neural circuits underlying the highly flexible movements. My lab uses a much simpler vertebrate, the two-day old frog tadpole, to study basic mechanisms that control rhythmic movements like swimming. Tadpole spinal cord contains about 10 types of nerve cells totaling just a few thousands. The miniscule size of tadpoles makes it possible to study how nerve cells work and communicate in situ without compromising the structure of neural circuits. We are also interested in how the spinal circuit responds when its normal mechanisms are interrupted, e.g. by pharmacological agents or injuries. Tadpoles show remarkable quick recovery in swimming after spinal injuries. The findings may hold potential keys that facilitate the design of cures for spinal diseases/injuries in humans in the long term.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)