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Lab News and Events

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We just were awarded an NIH grant called an Academic Research Enhancement Award (R15) from the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Here's a great article from Amherst College.

We just published our biggest laboratory research paper to date! The study examines the mechanism underlying the very rapid response time of the zebrafish startle response and how the intensity of a startling stimulus dictates the onset time of the reflex. Many thanks to a huge contribution from Prof Ashley Carter in the Physics department and the great work of Eileen Troconis '15, Alex Ordoobadi '15, Tom Sommers '16, and Razina Aziz-Bose '14! Journal article link

In collaboration with Walter Marcotti's lab at the University of Sheffield, we published a manuscript describing our methods for performing electrophysiological recordings from hair cells and afferent neurons in the zebrafish lateral line system. Great work Alex Ordoobadi '14! Journal article link

We contributed to a manuscript describing how natural compounds that are bisbenzylisoquinoline derivatives: berbamine, E6 berbamine, hernandezine, and isotetrandrine, protect hair cells from aminoglycoside-induced damage (ototoxicity). Great work Alex Ordoobadi '14 and Tom Sommers '15! Journal article link

We contributed to a manuscript describing how afferent neurons find their synaptic targets in a system (like the lateral line) where sensory receptors are continually added and rapidly turn over. Congratulations to Razina Aziz-Bose '14, she spent many months of hard work recording from larvae that had to be continuously shipped from Germany.

Pujol-Marti J*, Faucherre A*, Aziz-Bose R'14, Asgharsharghi A, Colombelli J, Trapani JG, Lopez-Schier H (2014). Converging axons collectively initiate and maintain synaptic selectivity in a constantly remodeling sensory organ. Current Biology, 24(1): 1-7. *equal author contribution PubMed link

We've published a teaching article in the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE) on how to record field potentials from escape responses in larval zebrafish. This straightforward electrophysiology lab is an ideal vertebrate preparation to use in an undergraduate neurophysiology lab course. Congratulations to Eileen Troconis '15 whose independent experiment, analysis, figure (see above) and results were published in the article. Monesson-Olson BD, Troconis EL'15, Trapani JG. (2014). Recording field potentials from zebrafish larvae during escape responses. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ, 13(1):A52-A58. PDF

We've published a paper in PLOS ONE examining the contribution of the mechanoelectrical transduction (MET) channel in the encoding of action potentials by sensory hair cells. The research used a zebrafish line with channelrhodopsin (ChR-2) expression in hair cells that was created in our lab by undergraduate students. Congratulations to Bryan, Jenna '13, Razina '14, and Fabiana '12!

On Sunday February 23rd, Joe, Bryan, Varun ’14, and Razina ’14 headed to Quinnipiac University's new Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine for the 25th N.E.U.R.O.N. (Northeast Undergrad/grad Research Organization on Neuroscience) Conference. The keynote was a great talk on Adult Neurogenesis in the hippocampus by Amelia Eisch, and Razina and Varun both presented research posters on their lab projects. Razina won the finalist award for the Suzannah Bliss Tieman prize for best poster.

Varun and Razina at a poster:
Razina accepting her award:
Varun and some judges:
Bryan at a poster:

Figure: Exocytosis decay curves averaged within concentric rings from DIC images. a Concentric ring ROIs superimposed on an image of a lawn of cortical granules from a sea urchin egg. b Color-coded decay curves initiated by 1 mM free Ca++ for each of the rings in a. c Composite curve for the entire lawn compared with the rapid decay of the outer ring, each fit with an exponential x-offset function.

Congratulations to Neuroscience majors James Mooney '12, Saumitra Thakur '11, and Biology major Peter Kahng '13 for their fine article on methods for using DIC image analysis to quantify the fusion of vesicles during secretion. The article includes a link to our subroutine for IGOR Pro® that converts raw data from TIFF file line scans into kinetic profiles of exocytosis.

Click to read the abstract on Springer Link

Figure: Sara Little '13 created this image describing a modern method for creating transgenic mice with controlled expression of proteins in specific tissues.

Congratulations to Neuroscience major Nik Smedemark-Margulies '13 for his excellent review article describing modern tools, techniques, and methods for the evolving field of optophysiology.

Click for the full text article

From the home page (
Cover figure: A Brownian-motion experiment images micron-sized polystyrene sphere beads: (a) Schematic diagram; (b) image taken at 100X magnification; (c)-(d) processed image and bead positions over time; (e) histogram of displacement data for many beads; (f) mean-square displacement vs. time for many particles. See the article on page 485 to learn how these data can be used to determine the diffusion coefficient.

The Carter Lab published a paper with the Trapani Lab in the American Journal of Physics. It was just selected as a feature article and a figure from it was put on the cover of this month’s issue. Congratulations to Biophysics major Marco Catipovic ’14 and Biology major Paul Tyler ’14 on their paper quantifying Brownian Motion!

Check out the article here:

Today was the last day of classes for the spring semester. It was also the day of the BIOL-450 poster session. The idea for our posters was for them to portray an influential neurophysiologist and include important moments in their lives and careers. The event was really great and all the posters were terrific.

The neurophysiologists represented were:

  • Carla Shatz (Stanford)
  • Roger Nicoll (UCSF)
  • Patricia Goldman-Rakic (Yale)
  • Neuroprosthetics (wildcard poster)
  • Eric Kandel (Columbia)
  • Eve Marder (Brandeis)

On Sunday, Joe, Varun ’14, and Jenna ’13 headed to Quinnipiac University for the 23rd N.E.U.R.O.N. (Northeast Undergrad/grad Research Organization on Neuroscience) Conference. Jenna and Varun both presented research posters on the lab projects. I gave a workshop presentation on teaching with an iPad.

Jenna and I spent the morning teaching biology students from the Hartsbrook School in Hadley MA about our research on hair cells in zebrafish. After a brief introduction to electrophysiology, hair cells, and the zebrafish lateral line system, students got to label hair cells with fluorescent dye and visualize them on our microscopes.

Thank you to Alex Workman for bringing his students to Amherst College!

Razina and Joe headed to New Orleans for the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). This year it was in New Orleans. The science was great, as was the food and city and weather. Razina presented her poster at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) annual poster session. Professor Steve George was also presented with a lifetime achievement award from FUN for his contributions to FUN over the years, going all the way back to his initial involvement in starting FUN.