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Students|Graduate Neuroscience Program

Ali Hamodi

The optic tectum of a single Xenopus tadpole provides a valuable tool to study a wide spectrum of neuronal developmental changes because neurons are in different stages of developmental along the rostrocaudal (RC) axis. This is due to the presence of a proliferative zone at the caudal edge of the optic tectum where neural progenitor cells give rise to neurons at a rate determined by total brain activity. These immature neurons then migrate into the tectum proper where they are incorporated into the retinotectal circuit. Ongoing incorporation of immature neurons from the caudal proliferative zone into the functional retinotectal circuit creates a spatial developmental gradient in which the most immature neurons are situated in the caudal portion of the optic tectum and the most mature in the rostral portion. Many aspects of neuronal maturation have been described throughout the RC axis including maturation of structural and synaptic properties. Structurally, there is an increase in dendritic arbor complexity and an increase in branchtip number. Synaptically, there is an increase in frequency and amplitudes of spontaneous synaptic activity, an increase in AMPA:NMDA ratios, as well as a decrease in levels of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors. However, much less has been reported about how the intrinsic properties may be changing along this RC axis. Since the way a neural circuit functions is determined by both a neuron’s synaptic and intrinsic properties, and since there is much evidence that these two properties are functionally coordinated, we wondered how intrinsic properties may also be changing along the same axis. Here, using stage 48 tadpoles, we characterize intrinsic properties from neurons along the RC axis. 

Zhenyu Liu

Zhenyu Liu

Presenillins are a family of transmembrane proteins that function as a part of the gamma-secreatase. In addition,presenillin is the regulator of intracellular calcium levels. It promotes the Akt signaling pathway. It also has been found that mutations in presenilin are the major cause of Alzheimer’s disease. And these mutations will cause the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. But nowadays, new emerging evidence showed that presenilin is necessary for proper neural development and in the neural of differentiation. Our lab uses Xenopus laevis tadpoles as the model organism. My research is focus on to study the role of Presenilin played in the retinotectal circuit of the tadpole to further understand the role of presenilin played in intact neuron circuit during the development. 

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