Lisberger Lab

Stephen Lisberger, Ph.D., PI

Dept: Neurobiology


Phone: 919-681-7088

Location: 327D Bryan Research Building

We investigate how the brain learns motor skills, and how we use what we see to guide how we move. Our approaches involve studies of eye movements using behavior, neural recordings, and computational analysis. Our work is done on behaving non-human primates. 

We ask how the brain works when it is working. Our goal is to understand the general principles of brain operation, through analysis of a relatively simple sensory-motor system in a complex animal. We study the control of eye movements in awake, behaving rhesus monkeys. We analyze eye movement behavior quantitatively, we make recordings from one or several brain cells during eye movement behavior, and we use theory and computational modeling. One area of our research concerns how we learn motor skills. We have shown that the cerebellum is critical for motor learning, and we have provided evidence that learning occurs both in the cerebellar cortex and the deep cerebellar nuclei. We also have discovered a form of very rapid plasticity that occurs when the visual detection of movement errors causes "climbing fiber responses" in the cerebellum. A single climbing fiber causes depression of the "simple-spike responses" on the attempt at a movement, along with a learned change in eye movement. 

Learning curves showing the pace of neural (left) and behavioral (right) learning across a learning session in the cerebellum (top) and the smooth eye movement region of the frontal eye fields (bottom). from Li et al., (2011)

Selected Recent Publications

Yang Y, Lisberger SG (2014) Plasticity and cerebellar motor learning are graded by the duration of complex-spikes. Nature 510: 529-532. PMC4132813.

Yang Y, Lisberger SG (2014) Role of plasticity at different sites across the time course of cerebellar motor learning. J. Neurosci. 34: 7077-7090. PMC4028490.

Joshua M, Lisberger SG (2014) A tale of two species: neural integration in zebrafish and monkeys. Neuroscience, doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.04.048. [Epub ahead of print]. PMC4216779.

Chaisanguanthum KS, Joshua M, Medina JF, Bialek WB, Lisberger SG (2014) The neural code for motor control in the cerebellum and oculomotor brainstem. eNeuro DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0004-14.2014.

Lisberger S.G. and Medina J.F. (2015) How and why neural and motor variation are related. Curr. Opin. Neurobio. 33: 110-116.