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 regulate sensorimotor processing and motivational states. Two major behavioral paradigms we use to investigate these questions are control of the startle response by prepulse inhibition, and regulation of movement during light-seeking behavior.

In addition, we have developed software for zebrafish behavioral and neuroanatomical analysis and a library of enhancer trap lines for manipulating the nervous system. Enhancer trap lines with strong expression in the nervous system are included in our Brain Browser, an atlas of zebrafish transgenic lines. Additional Gal4 transgenic lines are described in an online database.

The Burgess Lab is part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, just outside of Washington, DC.

Positions Available

Postdoctoral position - Sensorimotor processing

A postdoctoral position is available to study sensory processing in the auditory system. We aim to understand circuits and signaling mechanisms by which sensory context is used to rapidly evaluate stimulus salience, using the zebrafish escape system. This project builds on previous work by the lab in uncovering the molecular and cellular basis of prepulse inhibition, a filtering mechanism deficient in schizophrenia. Experiments will include computational analysis of behavior and calcium imaging in transgenic and mutant zebrafish.

Postdoctoral position - Brain state control

A postdoctoral position is available to study neural mechanisms that sustain short-term behavioral states. We focus on the midbrain and prepontine tegmentum, a highly conserved region in the vertebrate brainstem, that regulates a range of behavioral states including waking arousal levels. In previous work we linked activity by dorsal raphe neurons to state-dependent regulation of visual processing, and a parabrachial-like cluster of neurons to defensive behavioral state external link. Experiments will include single cell transcriptomic analysis, photoablation and neuroanatomical tracing of zebrafish neurons.

Postdoctoral position - Neurodevelopmental disorder models

A postdoctoral position is available to resolve how human neurodevelopmental gene mutations perturb brain development. Many brain disorders, including autism and schizophrenia arise from gene mutations that affect brain architecture and wiring. We use Cas9/Crispr to model human mutations in zebrafish, study sensory processing using behavioral assays and quantitatively analyze brain structure and composition using whole-brain imaging and computational registration

To apply please send a brief description of research accomplishments and interests, CV, and contact information for three references to Dr. Harold Burgess (burgessha@mail.nih.gov)

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