As you read the text on this website, take a moment to reflect on the coordinated motor activity your brain has produced to bring you here: you have walked to your office, coordinated multiple muscles in order to sit at your desk, and have precisely controlled a mouse or track pad in order to navigate your computer desktop. The unsung hero of the brain that helps you accomplish all this is the cerebellum, which plays a prominent role in motor control and learning. Diseases that affect the cerebellum are called ataxias: they result in lack of motor control and movement incoordination.

Purkinje cell (purple) and mitochondria (green).
Three Purkinje cells imaged using electron microscopy.

Our lab focuses on the development of brain circuits in both the healthy cerebellum and in animal models of ataxias, including spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6) and ataxia of the Charlevoix-Saguenay region (ARSACS). We aim to understand the pathophysiology that underlies the onset of disease symptoms in ataxias, since this may lead to new insights into treatments or prevention for these devastating human disorders. We also address fundamental questions about brain development, such as understanding the role of spontaneous neuronal activity in the developing cerebellum.

Our lab uses several approaches including electrophysiology, two-photon imaging, transgenic mouse technology, optogenetics, and behavioural assays in order to study cerebellar development in healthy mice and in mouse models of ataxia.

First Purkinje cell patched and filled in the Watt lab!

Our Mission

We value exciting and rigorous science that will deepen our understanding of the cerebellum and its roles in development, aging, and in diseases like ataxia.

We embrace and celebrate the contributions of the member of our team. Our diversity is our strength, and we strive to create an inclusive environment that welcomes everyone.

Our History

The Watt lab was established in 2011 in the Bellini Life Sciences Building on the downtown campus of McGill University. We are active members of the Biology Department as well as the wider Neuroscience community in Montreal. Most graduate trainees come from the Biology Department graduate program or the Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN). Our undergraduates come from several programs, including Biology and Neuroscience.