Harold Burgess – Head, Section of Behavioral Neurogenetics, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health
The natural environment presents a continuous stream of sensory stimuli that animals must quickly evaluate for an appropriate behavioral response. Two important criteria that the nervous system uses to assess stimulus salience are sensory context and motivational state. The Unit on Behavioral Neurogenetics aims to understand the functional development of neuronal connections which regulate the transmission of sensory stimuli to central circuits for behavioral choice. To achieve this, we combine computational analysis of behavior with classical genetic and cell-based circuit manipulations in larval stage zebrafish. Zebrafish larvae have a tractable nervous system, a repertoire of genetically determined behaviors and the additional advantage of a brain that is structurally similar to that of humans with the likelihood that many neuronal mechanisms are conserved. To fully harness the power of zebrafish for dissecting neuronal circuits, my laboratory and others have developed genetically targeted tools for monitoring and manipulating neuronal function.
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