Dr. Hale overviews the neural circuits and how they evolve. In her first video, Hale does an excellent job of defining evolution as a change in heritable characteristics. She uses examples, such as the variable color of the pepper moth, to explain selection for and against specific characteristics. She explains how individual species arise and concludes by describing the techniques, such as fossil and DNA analyses, that scientists can use to build “trees” or phylogenies between related species.
In Part 2 video, Hale explains why the “startle response,” a highly conserved behavior found in most fish and vertebrates, is a good system for studying how neurons connect and neural circuits have evolved. The Mauthner cells are the neurons that control the startle response. By comparing these neurons across many species of fish, it has been possible to follow the organization of the nervous system and control of behavior over hundreds of millions of years.
Melina Hale is a professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and Neurobiology and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Using predominantly zebra fish, Hale’s lab studies neural circuits that control limb and axis movement and how that movement changes over time. Movement changes can be seen both in the short time frame of development… Continue Reading