James T. Buchanan

Wehr Life Sciences, B02
(414) 288-1482

B.A. 1976, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO
Ph.D. 1981, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Postdoctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Postdoctoral Fellow, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden


Neurobiology of Locomotion

This laboratory is concerned with understanding the principles governing the operation of neuronal networks. The network of interest is that generating swimming in the spinal cord of the lamprey, a primitive vertebrate fish. The lamprey spinal cord is advantageous for network studies because of its relative simplicity and its ability to survive for several days in vitro. The isolated, living spinal cord exhibits the neuronal correlate of swimming, and individual nerve cells can be observed and studied with a variety of electrophysiological, pharmacological, and anatomical techniques. The lamprey brainstem and spinal cord provide a model system for the study of the vertebrate central nervous system and the rules of operation of basic neural networks.
The activity of neuronal networks depends on interactions among several levels of organization: 1) the network level: the pattern of synaptic connections among the neurons, 2) the synaptic level: the sign, the strength, and the temporal and dynamic properties of the synaptic connections, and 3) the cellular level: the membrane properties that affect how the neurons respond to synaptic inputs. In addition to studying the basic rhythm generating mechanisms at these three levels, we are also investigating how the locomotor network is controlled by the brain, how the spinal cord informs the brain of locomotor activity, and how various neuromodulatory substances alter the properties and patterns of the locomotor network. 


Selected Publications  

Buchanan, J.T. 2011. Spinal locomotor inputs to individually identified reticulospinal neurons in the lamprey. Journal of Neurophysiology 106: 2346-2357.

Buchanan, J.T.  2011.  Flexibility in the patterning and control of axial locomotor networks in lamprey. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 869-878.

Mulins, O.J., Hackett, J.T., Buchanan, J.T., and Friesen, W.O. 2011. Neuronal control of swimming behavior: comparison of vertebrate and invertebrate model systems.  Progress in Neurobiology 93: 244-269.

Quinlan, K.A. and Buchanan, J.T.  2008. Cellular and synaptic actions of acetylcholine in the lamprey spinal cord. Journal of Neurophysiology 100: 1020-1031.

Buchanan, J.T. and Einum, J.F. 2008. The spinobulbar system in lamprey. Brain Research Reviews, 57: 37-45.

Einum, J.F. and Buchanan, J.T. 2006. Spinobulbar neurons in lamprey: Cellular properties and synaptic interactions. Journal of Neurophysiology 96: 2042-2055.

Einum, J.F. and Buchanan J.T. 2005. Membrane potential oscillations in reticulospinal and spinobulbar neurons during locomotor activity. Journal of Neurophysiology 94: 273-281.

Quinlan, K.A., Placas, P.G., and Buchanan, J.T. 2004. Cholinergic modulation of the locomotor network in the lamprey spinal cord. Journal of Neurophysiology 92: 1536-1548.

Einum, J.F. and Buchanan, J.T.  2004.  Reticulospinal neurons receive direct spinobulbar inputs during locomotor activity in lamprey. Journal of Neurophysiology 92: 1384-1390.

Buchanan, J.T.  2001.  Contributions of identifiable neurons and neuron classes to lamprey vertebrate neurobiology. Progress in Neurobiol. 63:441-466.



Lawrence G. Haggerty Faculty Award for Research Excellence (2006)

Wehr Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences (2003-2008)

Marquette Chapter Sigma Xi Distinguished Research Award (2000)



Current Students

Dr. Buchanan is NOT currently accepting new Ph.D. students into his lab


Former Students

James F. Einum, 2004, Ph.D.

Katharina A. Quinlan, 2004, Ph.D.



Biological Sciences Department

Marquette University, Wehr Life Sciences
(Directions/campus map)
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
(414) 288-7355