Martha Bagnall, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named a McKnight Scholar by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience. The award honors young scientists whose innovative research advances the ability to diagnose, prevent and treat diseases of the brain.
The ability to balance and maintain an upright posture is crucial for a person’s ability to function normally, but little is known about how the brain routes sensory signals regarding orientation, movement and gravity through the spinal cord to keep the body right side up.
Using zebrafish, a tiny fish with a spinal cord remarkably similar to those of mammals, Bagnall studies how the brain and spinal cord work together to maintain balance and posture. She hopes to identify which populations of neurons are active during different kinds of movements to understand how sensory signals drive behavior. Her work could inform the development of devices to help people whose sense of balance has been impaired by injury or disease.
As a McKnight Scholar, Bagnall will receive $75,000 per year for three years to support her research.