Early in life, while our brains continue to grow and develop, we begin processing sensory input from the environment for the first time.
But what role, if any, do these sensory experiences play in influencing ongoing brain development?
My lab seeks to answer this question, using an interdisciplinary approach to elucidate the importance of sensory experience in both early brain development and the functions and behaviour the brain supports. Using the experimentally tractable zebrafish larvae as our primary animal model, we investigate how different sensory experiences alter brain development by affecting the structure of both pre-existing brain cells, through changes in connectivity and function, and the production of wholly new brain cells, termed neurogenesis.
By employing techniques in molecular biology, embryology, transgenesis, and behaviour, trainees in my lab learn to complement traditional approaches to studying brain development (such as histology) with modern approaches in which brain cells of interest can be labelled, silenced, and activated in live zebrafish larvae through the production of transgenic strains.
A specific ongoing lineage of research in the lab is to investigate the importance of movement (and the sensory feedback associated with movement) on early forebrain growth in zebrafish. If you are interested in my lab’s research program or have any questions, please visit my lab webpage and feel free to contact me.