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Martin Deschênes,


Studying the senses as a key to understand how complex behaviours are coordinated in the brain

Most senses require movement to extract information from the environment: vision is associated with eye and head movements, hearing with head movements, touching entails limb movements, and olfaction requires movement of the nose. To understand how movement and sensation are coordinated to lead to sensory perception, Professor Martin Deschênes and his team study the rodent vibrissa system, a model widely used in neuroscience.

The whisking movement allows rodents to explore their environment, and this movement is regulated precisely and coordinated with head movements and sniffing. Dr. Deschênes' research has shown that this movement follows a rhythm that is given by breathing. Hi team has also shed light on the neural networks that control breathing, vibrissa movement and head movement, and that coordinate these fast movements.

Dr. Deschênes's work explains how complex neural systems can be regulated to adapt behavior to the environment.

Our research bears on orofacial rhythms, more particularly on the generation of whisking in rodents.

In prior studies we discovered a pool of glycinergic neurons in the medulla whose activity is essential for whisking generation.

Our current studies aim at determining more precisely the phenotype of these glycinergic cells, and at identifying the neuronal circuits that control their activity.

Our experimental approaches include: unit recordings in head-restrained animals, circuit tracing by means of viruses, high-speed video monitoring of behavior, and other standard methods like immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, etc.

Moore JD, Deschênes M, Furuta T, Huber D, Smear MC, Demers M, Kleinfeld D (2013) Hierarchy of orofacial rhythms revealed through whisking and breathing. Nature 497: 205–210. 

Kleinfeld D, Deschênes M, Wang F, Moore JD (2014) More than a rhythm of life: breathing as a binder of orofacial sensation. Nat. Neurosci 17: 647–651.

Moore JD, Mercer Lindsay N, Deschênes M, Kleinfeld D (2015) Vibrissa self-motion and touch are reliably encoded along the same somatosensory pathway from brainstem through thalamus. PLOS (Biology), 13:e1002253 

Deschênes M, Takatoh J, Kurnikova A, Moore JD, Demers M, Elbaz M, Furuta T, Wang F, Kleinfeld D (2016) Inhibition, not excitation, drives rhythmic whisking. Neuron 90: 374-387.


orofacial behaviors, whisking, vibrissa, neuronal oscillators

Martin Deschênes


2601 Chemin de la Canardière
Québec (Québec) 
G1J 2G3


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