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




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

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.


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.


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 lab as 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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 looking for talented postdocs, PhD students, and technicians to join the team! 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

We are always looking for postdocs who are interested in working with us. Just drop Maarten a line!


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


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