Prof. Dr. Silvia Daun (formerly Gruhn) is currently leading a DFG-Heisenberg Group, working on the topic of 'Modeling neural network dynamics underlying motor control' at the University of Cologne, affiliated with the Department of Animal Physiology. Furthermore, she is the leader of the research group 'Computational Neurology' at the Research Center Jülich.'
Her field of expertise is Applied Mathematics. Her research interests include Numerical Analysis, Computational Neuroscience, Nonlinear Differential Equations, Dynamical Systems, Bifurcation-Theory and Geometric Singular Perturbation Theory. She uses mathematical models and numerical simulations to study how rhythmic motor activity in the nervous system is generated, and how this leads to locomotion and movement control.
To this end, she has studied insect locomotion in order to extract general principles of motor control. She has employed a multi-level approach to pursue this scientific goal for the following reason: multi-level approaches have proven helpful in the study of complex systems in general and of biological ones in particular. For the overwhelming majority of problems it is hardly possible to achieve such an objective by just analyzing single components of the overall process. The widely different time scales of the constituent processes of such systems to be treated simultaneously are a further challenge in modeling such systems. In the field of motor control these are, for instance, neural activity, signal processing of single cells or cellular networks, neuromuscular coupling, muscle dynamics and movement mechanics of the limb.
Using this multi-level approach, she has been successful in establishing a novel view on intra- and inter-limb coordination during multi-legged locomotion. However, her studies have so far focused only on so-called automatic movements, that is, locomotion and the low level aspects of their generation. Her simulations reflect neural network operation at the segmental level of the nervous system, i.e. the level of pattern generation, inter-leg coordination, and interaction of those functions with sensory feedback under normal physiological conditions.
Only recently has she started to extend her research interests to high-level motor control, which is of primary importance for the generation of goal-directed motor behavior.