I have been working with my mentor previously before the start of INBRE. Before I joined Dr. Pilarski’s lab I loved learning about the way neurons and axons worked to send electrical messages throughout the body. I specifically remember in my sophomore year dissecting a squid in a comparative biology lab. Squids have an axon so large that it is easily visible to the naked eye! After this spark and hearing that Dr. Pilarski studied neurons and their biorhythms. I began volunteering in his lab slicing fixed brain tissue and staining them to map out the structures of the Zebra Finch brain stem.
It has been a steep learning curve for me, but I kept at it. I kept reading articles and papers and doing experiments. Since I’ve been in his lab I have only been able to work part time INBRE allows me now to be a full time researcher and get so much more accomplished. I have now come along ways on top of my histological work; I now perform micro surgeries on the Zebra Finch embryos to excise the brain stem.
We take the brain stem and place it in a recording chamber or bath filled with continuous flowing synthetic cerebral spinal fluid. Here we record electrical rhythms or action potentials from two specific cranial nerves. As of now we are focused mainly on the accessory nerve. We do these recordings all throughout the development of the Zebra Finch embryo. We want to learn and be able to describe the breathing mechanisms in these crucial early stages when the breathing mechanisms and just coming into existence for these little birds. It’s really fun and exciting work, especially when you can attach onto a nerve and see an actual rhythm and then see it change as it gets older or as it’s environment changes.