[24-08-2009 to 12-09-2009]
Controlling Neural Activity Using Light
Dr Wen-Chang Li and Prof Glen Cottrell have received £266k funding from the Wellcome Trust for research into the study 'Controlling Neural Activity Using Light'. A general difficulty in spinal cord study in all vertebrates is that nerve cells of the same functional group are often sparsely located, making it difficult to investigate their specific roles. Unique among vertebrates, early embryonic cells of the tadpole are pre-disposed to develop into different defined populations of nerve cells in the spinal cord. This feature of the developing tadpole spinal cord, together with a powerful new molecular biological technique, (which enables light-activating, and -inhibiting, proteins to be targeted to the different nerve cell populations) will be exploited to control activity of identified populations of nerve cells.
This new approach will be used to analyze the functions of different types of spinal nerve cell in the locomotor (swimming) behaviour of the tadpole. The results obtained will answer outstanding, important, questions about the neuronal control of tadpole swimming and most probably reveal common mechanisms which operate in more “advanced” vertebrates such as mammals.
contact: Dr Wenchang Li