We study the neurobiology of locomotion in the nematode C. elegans. Our focus is at the levels from neuronal network to behavior and we have projects that address the connectivity, activity, and recovery from injury, of the locomotion network. Only 75 motoneurons of eight classes innervate 75 body wall muscle cells to produce the dorsoventral undulatory wave of activation that travels either backward or forward, against the direction of locomotion.
The goals of our group are 1) To nurture lab members and improve ourselves as scientists and 2) To discover principles that underlie animal locomotion by studying the neuroethology of locomotion in the nematode C. elegans.
Calcium level in muscle cells during locomotion, visualized with the calcium indicator GCaMP3 (strain courtesy of Wang laboratory).
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.
Ceanorhabditis elegans is a 1mm long nematode, a round worm.
Each hermaphrodite worm has exactly 302 neurons and the same neurons are identifiable in every animal by their location and morphology. The connections among most of the neurons were mapped by reconstruction of electron micrographs. This seminal worm by White et al that was published in 1986 is the only existing wiring diagram at the organism level (AKA “connectome”) in any animal and was not surpassed since then. We are interested in reconstructing the locomotion network in multiple animals and are collaborating with the Briggman group at NINDS to use Serial Block-face Scanning Electron Microscopy to acquire the data. [figure: 131105_SBFEM_MethodFig]
We use optophysiology (with genetically encoded calcium and voltage sensors) and optogenetics (with genetically encoded light-induced effectors) to record and control the activity of neurons and muscle. [figure: 131105_ForBackAB_Results2011Fig]
We will use laser axotomy to inflict very specific and localized damage to motoneurons of the locomotion network and follow the robustness and recovery of the network activity and animal behavior. [figure: 131105_fLaserAxotomy_MethodFig]
Imaging: fluorescence microscopy, calcium and voltage imaging, confocal imaging
Transgenic animals: Molecular biology, nematode maintanance and transgenics
C. elegans locomotion by the numbers
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New Jersey Institute of Technology
Department of Biological Sciences
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NJIT Biology Dept.
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