Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Carson Quinn L&S Sciences

Activity-Dependence of Synaptic Maturation in Zebrafish Visual Circuits

The way that brain cells wire together to form circuits underlies almost every facet of mental function, whether that be memory, thinking, or sensation. In my project, I seek to better understand what happens on a molecular level that allows for these specific circuits to form. Specifically, I want to elucidate the role that the maturation of synapsesthe connections between neuronshas on the shape, structure, and connectivity of the neurons making up these circuits, and how experience drives these changes. I will do this using the zebrafish visual processing system, which can be easily manipulated through optogenetic techniques of controlling cells with light flashes. In my experiments I will manipulate both optogenetically and pharmacologically a specific voltage gated ion channel, NMDAR, that is known to facilitate experience-dependent neuron wiring, and observe the effects on both synapses and cell structure to make a conclusion regarding NMDARs role in synapse-driven development.

Message To Sponsor

Thanks to SURF and the Pergo Foundation, I am provided a unique and exciting opportunity to do research full-time in a lab while working on my thesis project. I am now able to devote all of my focus to research during the summer, and explore things I wouldnt otherwise be able to explore had I been attempting to undergo an independent project while also working or going to classes. Conducting an independent project is giving me a taste of what the world of academic research has to offer, and has served to strengthen my desire to apply to an M.D./PhD program once I graduate.
Major: Neurobiology, Philosophy (minor)
Mentor: Ehud Isacoff, Molecular & Cell Biology
Sponsor: Pergo SURF fellow
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