Presentation by Gille Claude Vanwalleghem, 4 May 2022

Imaging large neuronal circuits from the Brain to the Gut
Gilles Claude Vanwalleghem
4 May 2022, 12:30 CET

As a transparent animal and with powerful light-based tools to monitor the brain, the larval zebrafish offers a perfect window into functioning neural circuits. We can image the whole brain of zebrafish with cellular resolution, as they respond to various stimuli and record the activity of thousands of neurons. I will focus on two recent studies, one in collaboration with optical physicists, using optical tweezers to move otolith in the inner ear and simulate acceleration. We identified several salient response types, and showed the fish can respond to unnatural stimuli. The other used a microfluidics device to apply water flow to the fish and stimulate the lateral line. The fish’s brain could encode the speed, duration and direction of the water flow, but we also showed that the circuit was biased towards one specific direction of flow. Finally, I will briefly present the new focus of my lab, the gut-brain axis is a physiological communication network between the microbiome, enteric and central nervous system. We are using light sheet microscopy to image the activity of the ENS neurons from 3 to 7 days post fertilization fish. We observed that the spontaneous neuronal activity increases from 3 to 5 dpf, before dropping suddenly at day 7.

I received my PhD in 2012 from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles where I worked on the Trypanosoma brucei parasite. We discovered a key role of Trypanosoma brucei adenylate cyclases in host-pathogen interactions, as well as the mechanisms through which the human APOL1 can trigger the parasite’s death. In 2014, I was awarded an EMBO long-term fellowship, to shift my focus to neuroscience and the use of optogenetics in larval zebrafish. My work since has spanned several sensory modalities in the zebrafish, including optical traps for vestibular stimulation, visual loom responses, auditory processing, and water flow perception.
I am an assistant professor at Aarhus University since October 2021, where I will focus on the gut-brain axis, I am especially interested in the interactions between neurons, bacteria and the immune system.

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