Current Projects

 
 
 Facial motor neuron filled with fluorescent dye to highlight its dendritic arbor.

Facial motor neuron filled with fluorescent dye to highlight its dendritic arbor.

Circuit Development and Robustness

To support neural circuit function, each neuron needs to establish useful synaptic connections - with the sensory periphery, with other neurons, or with muscle effectors.  What strategies do neurons use to guide synaptic connectivity?  What role do these strategies play in shaping the landscape of neurodevelopmental disease?  And how do these strategies constrain and facilitate brain evolution?

 

Rostral hindbrain of a larval zebrafish expressing nuclear localized calcium indicator under a pan-neuronal promoter, with glutamatergic interneurons and cranial motor neurons indicated in magenta.

Respiratory Circuit Development and Structure

Breathing behaviors are fundamental to an animal's survival.  These behaviors are generated and coordinated by neurons in the hindbrain and spinal cord.  By studying respiratory circuits in zebrafish, we can watch breathing behaviors and the neurons that generate them develop in vivo, using non-invasive methods.  Where are respiratory circuit components located?  How do these components reconfigure over time?  

 

Dendrite Organization and Circuit Development

Neurons extend tree-like membrane processes called dendrites, specialized for receiving synaptic inputs.  Using single-cell injection of plasmid DNA to label the membranes of single facial motor neurons, we can correlate a neuron's functional features with the relative position of its dendritic arbor.  Does a neuron's activity pattern predict the relative location of its dendrites?  Does the spatial organization of dendrites directly guide the formation of synaptic connections?