skip to content

Department of Zoology


It was recently discovered that during Drosophila nervous system development, there is an approximately two hour critical period towards the end of embryogenesis. During this developmental phase, the nervous system is particularly plastic, sensitive to activity levels as well as both internal and external environment. Differences during this critical period, for example in temperature, result in long-lasting changes in how nerve cells wire together and function, leading to behavioural changes evident in later larvae.

I am particularly interested in understanding how experience during the critical period leads to morphological differences in nerve cell structure and connectivity. Our experimental approach is to subject embryos to changes during the critical period, for example manipulating temperature, activity or levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). We then use expansion microscopy to achieve super-resolution that allows us to visualise and quantify numbers of connections (synapses) between specific interneurons and motor neurons.

Our project is a collaboration with the Richard Baines group at the University of Manchester, who specialise in electrophysiology. We envisage that the combination of high resolution imaging to reveal structure and connectivity, paired with electrophysiology to assay function, will provide clarity on how networks adjust during this critical time window.