We investigate how the brain produces behaviour by looking at how movements are generated and adjusted to meet animals’ needs.

 

 

Research

We are interested in the neuroscience of how animals move to meet their needs. We explore the mechanisms that underlie the generation of movements using a combination of multi-disciplinary approaches that include imaging, electrophysiology, and connectomics. We are also a maker lab, building custom microscopes and other setups to help us do the experiments we want to do.

 We use the zebrafish and fruit fly larva model organisms to see how the nervous systems of these diverse animals have evolved to move around in their environment.


About us

Holly Armstrong, Research Technician

Confession: I am not a neuroscientist! But I am very excited to be supporting the Zwart lab as a research technician, by taking care of our growing zebrafish colony in the new aquarium setting at the SOI. I completed my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at the University of Portsmouth, before moving on to the University of Aberdeen for my Master’s in Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology. I completed my PhD at the University of Plymouth, which focused on distinguishing eustress from distress in grey seals by using molecular stress markers and linking these to markers of tissue damage and whole-animal fitness measures. I have recently finished a postdoctoral role, a collaboration between Abertay University and the University of St Andrews, again working with grey seals, concerning the impact of persistent organic pollutants on adipose tissue function. I am very lucky to live in Anstruther with Tom and our feline matriarch, Tinker.

Eleonora Gagliardi, PhD student

I graduated in General and Applied Biology at the University of Naples “Federico II”. Thanks to my bachelor thesis project, I had my first experience with the zebrafish model organism, studying prenatal stress. Then, I pursued a master’s degree in Molecular Biology at the same University. During the Master program, I experienced a one year exchange at the University of Cadiz, Spain. I based my master studies at Zoological Station of Naples, in the Locascio lab, focusing on BDNF zebrafish mutants and their locomotion behaviour. Then, I decided to expand my research field to neuroscience moving to Scotland for my PhD in the Zwart lab. I live in beautiful St Andrews, by the sea which I love.

Pierce Mullen, Postdoc

I received my Bachelor in Pharmacology from the University of Leeds and stayed to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience in the Deuchars lab under the supervision of Dr Susan Deuchars. My PhD focused on the contribution of voltage-gated potassium channels to excitability in the spinal cord. At Leeds I further expanded my research towards the peripheral nervous system in Nikita Gamper’s lab, with a focus on decoding somatosensory information in peripheral nerves. I joined the Zwart lab to investigate how sensory information and motor drive are integrated to produce behaviour. I live with Sîan in picturesque Falkland.

Valentina Saccomanno, PhD student

After my BCs in Biological Science at the University of Sannio, I pursued a Master’s in Neuroscience between the University of Trieste and SISSA, in Italy. My interests for motor circuits brought me first in St Andrews for my master’s internship, which was carried out as exchange student in Dr Wenchang Li’s lab. I am now very excited to be back for my PhD! My project is co-supervised by Dr Maarten Zwart and Dr Wenchang Li, and will involve both zebrafish and frog tadpoles. Besides neuroscience, I like listening to rock music, reading classical books and walking by the sea.

Hesho Shaweis, PhD student

I received my Bachelor in Neuroscience at King’s College London. Later I moved to the Netherlands for my postgraduate studies at the Vrije Universiteit (VU), Amsterdam. During my masters I did an internship at the Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR) in Matthijs Verhage’s labas well as at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN, KNAW) in Chris de Zeeuw’s lab. Here I worked on the role of the cerebellum in motor learning and memory processes. I’ve joined the Zwart lab for my PhD to further explore this system. When I’m not behind a microscope, I’ll be discovering the eastern shores.

Annamaria Wakileh, PhD student

Before undertaking this PhD, I completed a BSc (Hons) Biochemistry just across town- at the University of St. Andrews’ School of Biology.  As part of my final year research project, I worked in Dr Terry Smith’s lab to biochemically characterise a putative enzyme of pharmacological interest from the parasite, Trypanosoma brucei. My project, which is supervised by Dr Stefan Pulver in addition to Maarten, aims to investigate the extent to which the brain controls how movements are performed, using the fruit fly as a model organism. I will also be working with Cairn Research as part of my EASTBIO Industrial CASE Studentship. In addition to my studies, I enjoy listening to music, painting on large canvases, and walking along our local shores.

Maarten Zwart, PI

After my undergraduate degree in bioengineering at the University of Wageningen, I moved to the UK for my graduate studies at the University of Cambridge with Daniel St Johnston, Gurdon Institute. I started working on motor systems during my PhD in Matthias Landgraf’s lab in the department of Zoology, followed by postdocs with Albert Cardona and Misha Ahrens, both at the HHMI Janelia Research Campus. I’m currently setting up my lab at the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, in beautiful Scotland. I live with Sonja and Freya in Crail.


Publications

2019

Babski H, Jovanic T, Surel C, Yoshikawa S, Zwart MF, Valmier J, Thomas JB, Enriquez J, Carroll P, Garcès A. A GABAergic Maf-expressing interneuron subset regulates the speed of locomotion in Drosophila. Nat Commun. 2019 Oct 22;10(1):4796. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12693-6

Kohsaka H, Zwart MF, Fushiki A, Fetter RD, Truman JW, Cardona A, Nose A. Regulation of forward and backward locomotion through intersegmental feedback circuits in Drosophila larvae. Nat Commun. 2019 Jun 14;10(1):2654. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-10695-y.

2018

Oswald MC, Brooks PS, Zwart MF, Mukherjee A, West RJ, Giachello CN, Morarach K, Baines RA, Sweeney ST, Landgraf M. Reactive oxygen species regulate activity-dependent neuronal plasticity in Drosophila. Elife. 2018 Dec 17;7. pii: e39393. doi:10.7554/eLife.39393.

2016

Kawashima T, Zwart MF, Yang CT, Mensh BD, Ahrens MB. The Serotonergic System Tracks the Outcomes of Actions to Mediate Short-Term Motor Learning. Cell. 2016 Nov 3;167(4):933-946.e20. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.055.

Zwart MF, Pulver SR, Truman JW, Fushiki A, Fetter RD, Cardona A, Landgraf M. Selective Inhibition Mediates the Sequential Recruitment of Motor Pools. Neuron. 2016 Aug 3;91(3):615-28. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2016.06.031.

Schneider-Mizell CM, Gerhard S, Longair M, Kazimiers T, Li F, Zwart MF, Champion A, Midgley FM, Fetter RD, Saalfeld S, Cardona A. Quantitative neuroanatomy for connectomics in Drosophila. Elife. 2016 Mar 18;5. pii: e12059. doi:10.7554/eLife.12059.

Fushiki A, Zwart MF, Kohsaka H, Fetter RD, Cardona A, Nose A. A circuit mechanism for the propagation of waves of muscle contraction in Drosophila. Elife. 2016 Feb 15;5. pii: e13253. doi:10.7554/eLife.13253.

2015

Heckscher ES, Zarin AA, Faumont S, Clark MQ, Manning L, Fushiki A, Schneider-Mizell CM, Fetter RD, Truman JW, Zwart MF, Landgraf M, Cardona A, Lockery SR, Doe CQ. Even-Skipped(+) Interneurons Are Core Components of a Sensorimotor Circuit that Maintains Left-Right Symmetric Muscle Contraction Amplitude. Neuron. 2015 Oct 21;88(2):314-29. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.09.009.

2013

Zwart MF, Randlett O, Evers JF, Landgraf M. Dendritic growth gated by a steroid hormone receptor underlies increases in activity in the developing Drosophila locomotor system. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Oct1;110(40):E3878-87. doi:10.1073/pnas.1311711110.

Pre-PhD:

Hörnberg H, Wollerton-van Horck F, Maurus D, Zwart M, Svoboda H, Harris WA, Holt CE. RNA-binding protein Hermes/RBPMS inversely affects synapse density and axon arbor formation in retinal ganglion cells in vivo. J Neurosci. 2013 Jun 19;33(25):10384-95. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5858-12.2013.

Pulver SR, Cognigni P, Denholm B, Fabre C, Gu WX, Linneweber G, Prieto-Godino L, Urbancic V, Zwart M, Miguel-Aliaga I. Why flies? Inexpensive public engagement exercises to explain the value of basic biomedical research on Drosophila melanogaster. Adv Physiol Educ. 2011 Dec;35(4):384-92. doi:10.1152/advan.00045.2011.

Barraud P, Seferiadis AA, Tyson LD, Zwart MF, Szabo-Rogers HL, Ruhrberg C, Liu KJ, Baker CV. Neural crest origin of olfactory ensheathing glia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Dec 7;107(49):21040-5. doi:10.1073/pnas.1012248107.

Doerflinger H, Benton R, Torres IL, Zwart MF, St Johnston D. Drosophila anterior-posterior polarity requires actin-dependent PAR-1 recruitment to the oocyte posterior. Curr Biol. 2006 Jun 6;16(11):1090-5. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.04.001.


Join the lab

We’re always looking for keen postdocs, PhD students, and technicians to join the team! Just drop Maarten a line. Anyone from a wide range of backgrounds including neuroscience, physics, engineering, and computer science who is interested in working in the lab is encouraged to get in touch. Funding for PhD students is available through:

the BBSRC Eastbio DTP

the School of Psychology and Neuroscience

the University of St Andrews


Contact

Maarten Zwart
Lecturer in Neuroscience
tel +44 01334 462086
email mfz[at]st-andrews.ac.uk

 


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