Unit Head: Dr. Harold A. Burgess
Two major goals in neuroscience are to define neural circuits which select and modulate behavior and to identify genes which contribute to the development of these circuits. Invertebrate species have yielded key insights into behavioral genetics because the nervous system is relatively simple and because their behaviors are stereotyped and genetically specified.
Zebrafish larvae have identifiable neurons and a repertoire of genetically determined behaviors. We exploit these advantages of the zebrafish to understand at the cellular and molecular level how neural circuits modulate behavior.
Our studies are directed at revealing brainstem circuits that represent the core of the extrapyramidal system which is the fundamental basis of movement in higher vertebrates. A better understanding of how these circuits work will generate new insights into the pathology of neurological disorders.
The two major behavioral paradigms we use to investigate these questions are modulation of the acoustic startle response by prepulse inhibition, and modulation of the locomotor repertoire during a phototaxis based navigational task.
The Burgess Lab is part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, just outside of Washington DC.