An assistant professor of physics at the University of Arts and Sciences has received the prestigious McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience award for advancing her two-photon microscopy study of neural activity in the brain of Drosophila larvae.
Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata, who joined Syracuse University last fall and works as part of its BioInspired Institute, was awarded $200,000 over two years. She is one of her three winners selected nationally for the 2022-23 Awards. The McKnight grant rewards breakthrough techniques for mapping, monitoring, and modeling brain function and recognizes the ability of projects to fundamentally change the way neuroscience research is conducted.
Mihovilovic Skanata said the award will give her the equipment to accelerate the development of new high-precision two-photon microscopy techniques to study neurobrain activity in free-moving larval fruit flies. says it can. She aims to understand circuit-wide how the brain computes and how correlated neural activity produces behavior, such as how decisions are formed in the brain. increase. She also wants to understand how these neural correlates change during learning or when affected by neurological disease.
manipulate one’s mind
The high precision and high magnification of two-photon microscopy allows researchers to study the larval Drosophila brain. Fruit fly larva brains are small and compact, measuring about 200 by 100 microns in size and containing about 10,000 neurons, small enough to be studied in a laboratory. individual cell level. Optical manipulation of neural activity is routinely performed in many model organisms, and imaging of neural activity in freely moving organisms has been achieved, but simultaneous manipulation and imaging of freely moving animals remains a challenge in model organisms. This is a challenge because of the complexity that arises from deformation. brain in motion.
The new system uses algorithms to coordinate the movements of the larvae’s brains, giving them the unique ability to read and manipulate the minds of freely moving animals as they explore sensory environments. According to Mihovilovic Skanata, larvae had to be fixed or dissected before the technique was developed.
decision to move
“I am very honored to receive this award,” says Mihovilović Sukanata. “With our improved ability to monitor neural activity, we can understand how animals make decisions and compare free-moving versus restrained or immobilized conditions. If you have a see-through animal, it’s exciting because you can use light to read neural activity and use light patterns to activate specific neurons. You can do both at the same time, observing the changes that result from your actions.”
“It’s great to have Assistant Professor Mihovilovic Sukanata recognized for his groundbreaking work,” said Royce Agnew, interim president of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Her research and teaching is a great addition to the Department of Physics and I look forward to her discoveries. It’s exciting to think that it could lead to
Prior to attending Syracuse University, Mihovilovic Skanata was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Mark Gershaw’s lab in the Department of Physics, New York University from 2014 to 2021. She also spent six years as a graduate research fellow in Derek Stein’s group in the Department of Physics at Brown University, and in 2006 she joined CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) as a summer undergraduate research fellow in Michael Dozer’s group. Did. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Zagreb, Croatia in 2008 and has completed her Master’s and Ph.D. She received her BS in Physics from Brown University in 2009 and 2014 respectively.