Xenopus larvae. Photo by Sara Hänzi and Hans Straka
The paper, by Bard alum Silas E. Busch ’16 and Professor Arseny S. Khakhalin, builds on a study undertaken by Busch for his Senior Project in biology. Busch explored whether different neurons in the optic tectum of Xenopus tadpoles—the part of the brain that helps tadpoles navigate in the water without running into objects or each other—are tuned to synaptic inputs of different duration. What he found is that most tectal neurons do have a preference for either short or long patterns of activation, and that this preference changes depending on what tadpoles see and hear. It means that the tadpole brain as a whole, and each individual neuron within it, adjusts to changes in the animal’s environment, enabling the tadpole to better navigate and survive. The paper describes this particular type of neuron-by-neuron “temporal tuning” in the tectum for the first time, applying an electrophysiological measuring technique called dynamic clamp in an entirely new way.