Francesca Minale


It becomes a difficult task to relate behavior with specific neural processes. To study this correlation, researchers had conducted experiments using whole cell lesions in order to observe specific behavioral changes. With new applications of technology such as the two photon microscope, we have been able to specifically ablate only part of a neuron, thereby preserving the life and functionality of the cell body, instead of abolishing the whole neuron and disrupting its complex neural circuitry. Using two photon microscopy as an in vivo light scalpel allows for the dissection of neural circuitry in a more precise manner than previous experiments. With such precision, behavior can then be directly correlated with certain processes rather than with large disruptions within the whole neural circuitry. The project is in collaboration with Prof. Joseph Fetcho from the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. Currently, I am studying the Mauthner cell in zebra fish, which is associated with the fish’s fast-start escape response. The Mauthner cell has two dendrites, a lateral, which incorporates tactile stimulus, and a ventral dendrite, which incorporates visual stimulus. With two photon microscopy, I am able to ablate the lateral and/or ventral dendrite while leaving the cell body intact, and then analyze the consequence for behavior. This analysis comes from comparing the fast-start escape responses of control fish to the ablated fish. I am an undergraduate in Biological Engineering. I expect to graduate in May 2011. I started working in this lab in May 2008.

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