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.

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