Category Archives: Seminar Series

Wait, do fish even have ears? Using zebrafish to study molecular mechanisms of hearing loss.

Hearing loss and vestibular dysfunction are among the most common disabilities in the world, affecting nearly one third of older adults. While much progress has been made researching the mechanisms underlying congenital deafness, the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying adult-onset hearing loss and vestibular dysfunction are poorly understood. In the vast majority of cases of […]

Move it, move it!: Modeling stereotyped behaviors in C. elegans

A big question in biology is how to understand complex animal behavior. We want to know why it happens, how it happens, what are predictors of those behaviors. Caenorhabditis elegans is an excellent animal model for studying behavior because its movements can be simplified and described in four discrete dimensions or “eigenworms”. (See figure 1 below.) […]

It’s too hot, get me out of here!

The ability to achieve homeostasis in the face of varying environmental conditions is vitally important to the survival of an organism. A critical aspect of homeostasis is maintaining a temperature suitable for cellular processes. Using the model C. elegans, the Sengupta lab examined the neural circuits underlying their major thermoregulation strategy, negative thermotaxis (moving away […]

Making Memories: The Role of Activity-Dependent CRTC1 in Synapse-to-Nucleus Signaling

How does a memory come to be With so many synapses in a dendritic tree? With umpteen connections betwixt cells, How does a nucleus come to tell When and which genes transcribed will be Sufficient to mediate plasticity? The Martin Lab at UCLA Believes that they have found a way. When transmitter binding allows calcium […]

Periphery-derived TGF-β signaling orchestrates the formation of topographical maps in the brain

The mouse trigeminal system is an extremely well-characterized and accessible model for neuronal development, sensorimotor integration, and active sensation. Rodent whiskers are tactile sensors that can detect subtle differences in amplitude, velocity, orientation, and duration of a tactile stimulus. Several subtypes of mechanosensory neurons innervate each whisker follicle and the neurons representing a single follicle […]

RNA Alternative Splicing and Abundance: Using HITS-CLIP to Study the Function of RNA-Binding Proteins

Paraneoplastic neurologic disorders (PNDs) represent a rare class of neurodegenerative diseases that arise in the presence of cancer. The disorders are believed to stem from an immune response against certain tumor and neuronal antigens (onconeural antigens). The generation of onconeural antigens is a double-edged sword—while acting as an effective antitumor response, the antigens also generate […]

How mice decide: Stimulation of striatal D1 and D2 neurons bias choice in opposite ways

“It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  –Dumbledore “We are our choices.” –Jean-Paul Sartre  The question of how animals make decisions based upon prior experiences has plagued neuroscience since the field’s inception. An animal wants to make a decision in such a manner that it […]

Noise vs song, how are naturalistic stimuli processed in the brain?

One problem encountered in researching sensory systems is that classical stimuli used to probe a sensory system are often not representative of what that system might encounter in the real world. Furthermore it has been difficult to explain the response of neurons to such naturalistic stimuli (such as natural scenes, faces, or speech)  based solely […]

Joaquín Fuster: Working Memory, Cognits, and the Perception-Action Cycle

In the 1920s, Jakob von Uexküll (the theorist responsible for the notion of umwelt) described the sensory-motor cycle through which an animal modifies the environment, thereby modifying its own perception of the environment, which leads to further action upon the environment, and so forth, until a particular goal is achieved (Fig. 1a).   In the primitive animal, […]

Forming Functional Synapses

Since the discovery of long-term potentiation by Lomo and Bliss in 1973, neuroscientists have been searching for additional evidence of neuronal change based on experience. The concept of synaptic plasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of incoming information – is not new to the neuroscience field. But now, with […]