Date of Submission

Spring 2018

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Biology; Mind, Brain & Behavior

Project Advisor 1

Arseny Khakhalin

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The startle response is a reflexive behavior exhibited by animals as a reaction to threatening stimuli, such as a loud noise or sudden movement. Fish and amphibians exhibit a distinct startle behavior known as a “C-start” that allows them to swim in the opposite direction of a sensory stimulus in order to escape. This action is mediated, in part, by a pair of hindbrain neurons called M-cells. Along with other hindbrain neurons, M-cells relay information from sensory systems to the spinal cord where a motor output is produced. Here, we recorded local field potentials generated by the M-cells and neighboring neurons in the Xenopus laevis tadpole in order to understand the activity of local circuits surrounding the M-cell when it receives visual input from the optic tectum. We described 5 major components of the local field potentials that may correspond to activity from different populations of neurons. We also used pharmacological blockers to determine the influence of different types of transmission on the components. Finally, we looked at the effects of behavioral plasticity on these five components, and showed that habituation to acoustic stimuli had an effect on the mean amplitudes of them. This suggests that these networks may be involved in modulating M-cell activity in response to prolonged sensory stimulation. All together, our findings help us better understand the local circuitry involved in startle response in tadpoles, and how the activity of this circuitry is shaped by behavioral plasticity.

Open Access Agreement

On-Campus only

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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