Neurobiology and Development

Neural Circuit Development

Under the direction of Artur Kania

Research Unit

The function of our nervous system is to translate sensory stimuli such as pain, into movement. The basic units of nervous system output are motor neurons which transmit the summation of the motor system’s activity to muscles. To understand how the motor system is assembled, we used genetic and cellular tools in mouse and chick, to identify two classes of proteins, called netrins and ephrins, used by motor neurons to connect to their targets. We are now studying how these signals are integrated since they are therapeutic targets in neurodegenerative disorders such as ALS and Alzheimer’s.

My laboratory is also studying the development and function of somatosensory neural circuits using mouse genetic models. Specifically, we are interested in projection neurons that relay noxious signals from spinal cord circuits to brain targets involved in the conscious perception of pain. One intriguing possibility is that different features of pain, such as its mechanical or thermal modality, its location, intensity and emotional aspect are conveyed by non-overlapping neuronal pathways. Inactivation of such specific might constitute novel analgesic therapies. With this in mind, we have identified Phox2a-expressing neurons as the origin of the anterolateral tract in mice and humans, and have carried out proof-of-principle experiments that uncover their nociceptive function. The next step is the study of Phox2a neurons’ role in chronic pain, and the identification of their molecular handles to identify potential therapeutic targets.

Artur Kania

Research Unit Director

  • Associate Professor-Researcher, Department of Medicine, Université de Montréa
  • Director, Neural Circuit Development Research Unit, IRCM
  • IRCM Research Professor
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Medicine (Division of Experimental Medicine), Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and Department of Biology, McGill University 

Other affiliations

  • Reviewing Editor, The Journal of Neuroscience
  • Section Editor, Neuroscience
  • Member, Quebec Pain Research Network, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé

Degrees and relevant experience

  • PhD in human and molecular genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, USA (1991-1996)
  • Predoctoral fellow, Human and Molecular Genetics, Dr. Hugo Bellen’s laboratory, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, USA (1991-1996)
  • Postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Thomas M. Jessell’s laboratory, Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University, New York, USA (1996-2000)
  • Associate researcher, Dr. Thomas M. Jessell’s laboratory, Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University, New York, USA (2000-2004)
Artur Kania
Research Unit Director
Farin Bourojeni
PhD student
Chao Chang
PhD student
David Cotnoir-White
Research Associate
Ahmad Gebai
PhD Student
Meirong Liang
Research Assistant
Shima Rastegarpouyani
PhD student
Brian Roome
PhD student
Xinying Zhang
M.Sc. student
Céline Chéneau
Executive Assistant


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Contact information

Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM)
110, des Pins Avenue West
Montréal, Québec  H2W 1R7

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Neurobiology and Development