Neural Coding of Behaviors

The goal and challenge is to understand a) how neurons are organized into functional units (circuits); b) how circuits integrate signals to generate commands for responses; c) how such responses adapt to animal development.


We are mapping functional circuit connectivity in behaving C. elegans by genetics, electrophysiology, real-time calcium imaging, and optogenetics.

Whole-brain calcium imaging

Optogenetic inhibition of motor neurons in the ventral and dorsal nerve cords. Yellow indicates light on.

Through these studies, we have begun to reveal shared principles that govern circuit operation between C. elegans and vertebrates.


We reveal that excitatory motor neurons in the ventral nerve cord compressed the role of the spinal command, motor execution and proprioceptive feedback as a self-sufficient CPGs (Gao, 2009; Kawano, 2011; Gao, 2018; Wen, Gao and Zhen, 2019).