Brady Weissbourd named Klingenstein-Simons Fellow

September 09, 2023

Now, thanks to a prestigious Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award in Neuroscience, MIT Assistant Professor Brady Weissbourd will study how the tiny, transparent animals use this ability to build, organize, and rebuild a stable, functional, and robust nervous system throughout their lives. Where does the constant stream of newborn neurons come from, and what guides them to their eventual places in the jellyfish’s mesh-like neural network? How does the jellyfish organize these ever-changing neural populations — for instance, into functional circuits — to enable its various behaviors? He found that within a week enough new neurons had taken their place that the folding behavior was restored. “We want to understand the mechanisms that allow this network to be so robust, including the ability to rebuild itself from scratch.

The Clytia hemisphaerica jellyfish is not only a hypnotically graceful swimmer, but also an amazing neuron-manufacturing machine with a remarkable ability to expand and regenerate its nervous system.

Now, thanks to a prestigious Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award in Neuroscience, MIT Assistant Professor Brady Weissbourd will study how the tiny, transparent animals use this ability to build, organize, and rebuild a stable, functional, and robust nervous system throughout their lives.

“As we look more broadly across the animal kingdom it is amazing to see how similar the basic biology is of animals that look completely different — even jellyfish have neurons similar to our own that generate their behavior,” says Weissbourd, a faculty member in MIT’s Department of Biology and The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, whose work to engineer genetic access to C. hemisphaerica in 2021 established it as a new neuroscience model organism. “At the same time, it could be just as important to examine what is different across species, particularly when it comes to some of the incredible capabilities that have evolved.”

Weissbourd is just one of 13 researchers nationally to be recognized with this fellowship, which provides $300,000 over three years. It will enable Weissbourd’s lab to tackle several questions raised by the jellyfish’s prodigious production of neurons. Where does the constant stream of newborn neurons come from, and what guides them to their eventual places in the jellyfish’s mesh-like neural network? How does the jellyfish organize these ever-changing neural populations — for instance, into functional circuits — to enable its various behaviors?

Another question hails from the surprising results of an experiment in which Weissbourd ablated the entire class of the neurons that the jellyfish uses to fold up its umbrella-shaped body — about 10 percent of the 10,000 or so neurons that it has. He found that within a week enough new neurons had taken their place that the folding behavior was restored. Weissbourd’s studies will also seek to determine how the animal can so readily bounce back from the destruction of a whole major neural network and the behavior it produces.

“We were studying the neural control of a particular behavior and stumbled across this shocking observation that the subnetwork that controls this behavior is constantly changing size and can completely regenerate,” Weissbourd says. “We want to understand the mechanisms that allow this network to be so robust, including the ability to rebuild itself from scratch. I’m very grateful to the Klingenstein Fund and the Simons Foundation for supporting our work.”

The source of this news is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Popular in Research

1

May 13, 2024

For MIT students, there is much to learn from crafting a chair

2

3 days ago

Persistent “hiccups” in a far-off galaxy draw astronomers to new black hole behavior

3

May 13, 2024

HKUST Researchers Develop Revolutionary Biomimetic Olfactory Chips to Enable Advanced Gas Sensing and Odor Detection | The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

4

May 7, 2024

Species diversity promotes ecosystem stability

5

May 11, 2024

Why Are We Obsessed with Human Origins?

Peace feels further than ever at six months of Israel-Hamas war

1 day ago

Biden warns Netanyahu of US shift, as domestic pressure mounts

1 day ago

Trump Courts Palm Beach Billionaires as Power of His Rallies Fades

2 days ago

Fed Chair Powell says inflation has been higher than thought, expects rates to hold steady

1 week ago

NYU's Kristoffer Diaz makes his Broadway debut with 'Hell’s Kitchen'

5 hours ago

Less Dread, More Curiosity

1 day ago