Francisco J. Alvarez, PhD

Neuroscience\, Cell Biology\, and Physiology
Adjunct Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology & Physicology
Emory University School of Medicine, 615 Michael St, Whitehead Research Bdg Room, Atlanta, GA 30322-1047

Spinal cord motor synaptic circuitry assembly during development and its plasticity in adults after peripheral nerve injury. Role of neuroinflammation.

There are currently four distinct projects in the Alvarez lab all focused on spinal cord motor circuits.

  1. Development of spinal cord motor interneurons: We study specification of inhibitory interneurons controlling motoneuron activity, the origins of different functional classes and how their different properties (synaptic inputs, axon targeting, electrophysiological properties) are determined by genetic factors and/or develop through activity-dependent mechanisms. We also want to elucidate the functional roles of novel genetically-defined subgroups using genetic manipulations of their activity during development and in adult. 
  2. Alterations in spinal cord motor circuitries after peripheral nerve injury: This project goal is to explain the permanent motor deficits that linger in patients with nerve injuries even after the peripheral nerve successfully regenerates and reinnervates muscle. The focus is on the changes in connectivity of synaptic branches inside the spinal cord of sensory and motor axons injured in the periphery.
  3. Neuroimmune responses after peripheral nerve injury: Microglia are major effectors of synaptic pruning in the central nervous system during development and neuropathology. Therefore we study the activation and role of microglia in relation to the synaptic alterations that modify spinal motor circuits after nerve injury. A major focus is on microglial-dependent recruitment of peripheral immune cells, like T-cells and monocytes, different cytokine signaling cascades and what their respective roles are in preserving or deleting specific synapses, axonal arbors or neurons inside the “intact” spinal cord after nerve injury.
  4. Chloride homeostasis in motoneurons axotomized after peripheral nerve injury: The potassium-chloride co-transporter that regulates internal chloride in neurons and thus the strength of inhibitory synapses, is downregulated in motoneurons axotomized after nerve injury. We study the cellular signaling mechanisms that lead to this downregulation and its impact on motoneuron physiology and regeneration. 


Department of Physiology
Emory University School of Medicine
615 Michael Street
Whitehead Research Building, Room 642
Atlanta, GA 30322
Office: 404-727-5139
Lab: 404-727-4826

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