This interdisciplinary project will incorporate the disciplines of Neuroscience and Biology. However, the project is specifically housed within the Hope College Department of Biology.
With this research project we will examine olfactory-mediated function and behavior following degeneration and regeneration of the olfactory system following a lesion in the olfactory bulb of zebrafish.
The olfactory system is composed of two peripheral olfactory organs located in the nasal cavity, and the olfactory bulb, a brain region that regulates olfactory information. This system allows organisms to detect odor signals and thus interact with their environment. Olfaction mediates behaviors pivotal for survival, such as feeding, mating, social behavior, and danger assessment.
The olfactory system of zebrafish presents a remarkable degree of regeneration and neuroplasticity, making it an ideal model for the study of regeneration, reorganization, and repair mechanisms following injury and disease.
We have discovered that lesions of the olfactory bulb produce neuron loss and degeneration in many components of the olfactory system, including the olfactory bulb and olfactory sensory neurons of the olfactory epithelium. This neuron loss and degeneration is followed by complete neuronal regeneration and repair.
In addition to the morphological regeneration and recovery observed in the olfactory system, it is not yet known if olfactory system degeneration caused by bulbar lesions cause olfactory dysfunction.
We aim to answer the following question:
Does injury to the olfactory bulb results in olfactory dysfunction and alterations in olfactory-mediated behavior?
To answer this, we will study the timeline of olfactory function following lesion and during recovery using olfactory-mediated behavioral tasks. We will study the behavioral response to three different classes of odorants that convey important environmental signals: aminoacids (i.e. food), bile salts (i.e. kinship), and skin extract (i.e. alarm response). This will allow us to test whether lesioned fish present a reduced olfactory response to individual or all classes or odorants, and how this response is recovered.
We will use olfactory behavioral tasks and specialized software that allows for registering and analyzing animal behavior.