ZFIN ID: ZDB-LAB-161115-2
Neural Circuits and Development lab
PI/Director: Thirumalai, Vatsala
Contact Person: Thirumalai, Vatsala
Email: vatsala@ncbs.res.in
URL: http://www.ncbs.res.in/vtlab/Neural_Circuits_and_Development_Lab/Welcome.html
Phone: +91 80 2366 6514
Line Designation: ncb


For most animal species, survival depends critically on the ability to move- be it for feeding, escaping predators or selecting a suitable mate. To generate movement, skeletal muscles need to be contracted in precisely coordinated patterns. Neural circuits control the spatial and temporal pattern of skeletal muscle contractions. Our lab is interested in understanding the hierarchy, mechanisms and development of neural circuits that generate movement.

In vertebrates, the circuits that control movement are found in the spinal cord and in the brain. The spinal circuits controlling the generation of locomotion are referred to as ‘central pattern generators’ as the output from these circuits is patterned and rhythmic electrical activity sent to the muscles. These central pattern generators are in turn controlled by sensory drive and by commands from the locomotory centers of the brain. My lab focuses on the development of central pattern generators and the development of descending motor control from the brain. We also seek to understand the mechanisms by which brain locomotor circuits control movement in mature organisms.
We use zebrafish, a small fresh water tropical fish endemic to the Ganges, as our model system. The embryonic and larval stages of these fish are transparent allowing for direct visual observation of developing internal organs including the brain. We employ a suite of techniques to tease out the circuitry responsible for generating swimming in developing and more mature zebrafish. We record electrical activity from individual spinal and brain neurons using extracellular and whole-cell patch clamp techniques. We record activity from populations of neurons simultaneously using calcium imaging. We generate transgenic zebrafish to express proteins of interest in particular neurons. This allows us to selectively ablate and also to electrically activate/inactivate specific populations at will. Using these cutting edge tools and technologies, we hope to throw light on the development of neural circuits and the neural basis of locomotion.

Sengupta, Mohini Post-Doc Yadav, Gnaneshwar Post-Doc Agarwal, Vandana Graduate Student
Jabeen, Shaista Graduate Student Jha, Urvashi Graduate Student Narayanan, Sriram Graduate Student
Robra, Lena Graduate Student Sitaraman, Sahana Graduate Student Varma, Aalok Graduate Student
A, Manjunath Fish Facility Staff

Jha, U., Thirumalai, V. (2020) Neuromodulatory Selection of Motor Neuron Recruitment Patterns in a Visuomotor Behavior Increases Speed. Current biology : CB. 30(5):788-801.e3
Callahan, R.A., Roberts, R., Sengupta, M., Kimura, Y., Higashijima, S.I., Bagnall, M.W. (2019) Spinal V2b neurons reveal a role for ipsilateral inhibition in speed control. eLIFE. 8:
Wyart, C., Thirumalai, V. (2019) Building behaviors, one layer at a time. eLIFE. 8
Kondrychyn, I., Robra, L., Thirumalai, V. (2017) Transcriptional Complexity and Distinct Expression Patterns of auts2 Paralogs in Danio rerio.. G3 (Bethesda). 7(8):2577-2593
Lupton, C., Sengupta, M., Cheng, R.K., Chia, J., Thirumalai, V., Jesuthasan, S. (2017) Loss of the Habenula Intrinsic Neuromodulator Kisspeptin1 Affects Learning in Larval Zebrafish. eNeuro. 4(3)
Robra, L., Thirumalai, V. (2016) The Intracellular Signaling Molecule Darpp-32 Is a Marker for Principal Neurons in the Cerebellum and Cerebellum-Like Circuits of Zebrafish. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. 10:81
Sengupta, M., Thirumalai, V. (2015) AMPA receptor mediated synaptic excitation drives state-dependent bursting in Purkinje neurons of zebrafish larvae. eLIFE. 4
Yadav, G.V., Chakraborty, A., Uechi, T., and Kenmochi, N. (2014) Ribosomal protein deficiency causes Tp53-independent erythropoiesis failure in zebrafish. The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology. 49:1-7