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Department of Zoology

 

Research

Neuronal properties are specified during critical periods of nervous system development, a period of time in late Drosophila embryogenesis where neurons have increased plasticity and sensitivity to change. Manipulations of the whole nervous system during the critical period has been shown to have lasting negative effects on the whole larva, such as needing increased recovery time after electric shocks. But what is happening on the single neuron level to cause this effect? I am interested in studying how single neurons might respond differently to varying critical period experiences, focusing on how critical period experiences affect the structural plasticity of motor neurons, but also hope to be able to explore how excitatory vs inhibitory interneurons might respond differently. To achieve this, I am using optogenetics to cause specific activity manipulations to specific nerve cells, then analyse their structures, sizes and connectivity using imaging, such as super-resolution expansion microscopy.

Image of an anterior corner cell (aCC) motor neuron taken on a spinning disk confocal microscope. Bruchpilot (Brp) is a marker for pre-synaptic zones and Drep2 is a marker for cholinergic (excitatory) post-synaptic zones.  With these three components, we can quantify the number of cholinergic synapses that connect to the aCC by counting where the three colours overlap