On Tuesday 2 May 2023, the Department hosted the annual Sir Charles Sherrington Prize Lecture titled "Neuronal circuits for body movements" by Professor Silvia Arber. Professor Arber is Senior Group Leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) and the Biozentrum of the University of Basel in Switzerland.
Professor Arber's lecture outlined her laboratory's recent work elucidating the organisation and function of neuronal circuits central to the regulation of distinct forms of body movements, including locomotion and skilled forelimb movements. Her talk demonstrated that dedicated circuit modules in different regions of the brainstem and their interactions within the motor system play key roles in the generation of diverse actions.
Most recently, the Arber laboratory revealed how neuronal populations in the brainstem interact with circuits in the spinal cord to orchestrate skilled forelimb movement, locomotion or posture, establishing links between connectivity and function. Her contributions have important implications for the treatment of movement disorders such as Parkinson's as well as spinal cord injury.
Professor Arber's pioneering research has been recognised with numerous prizes, including the Pfizer Research Prize (1998), the Latsis Prize (2003), the Schellenberg Prize (2003), the Friedrich Miescher Award (2008), the Otto Nägeli Award (2014), the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2017) and the NAS Pradel Research Award (2018), the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2017), the NAS Pradel Research Award (2018), and the Brain Prize (2022).
Sir Charles Sherrington (1857 - 1952), the lecture's namesake and first person to coin the term 'synapse' to describe interneuronal contact, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1932 with Edgar Adrian for their work on the functions of neurons. Prior to the work of Sherrington and Adrian, it was widely accepted that reflexes occurred as isolated activity within a reflex arc; instead Sherrington and Adrian showed that reflexes require integrated activation and demonstrated reciprocal innervation of muscles, a principle now known as Sherrington's Law.
After the lecture, attendees gathered for a drinks reception in the Sherrington reception foyer, where Professor Arber took time to meet with researchers and students who had attended the lecture.