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Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program

Jacqueline Webb

Biological Sciences
(401) 874-2609

Research Description: We study the evolutionary morphology and development of fish sensory systems, with a particular emphasis on the mechanosensory lateral line system. The lateral line system is a fundamental feature of all fishes and aquatic larval and adult amphibians (>50% of living vertebrate species), but is not found in reptiles, birds and mammals. It consists of a spatial array of hair cell-based neuromast receptor organs (not unlike the sensory epithelia of the inner ear) that are located on the skin and in a series of canals on the head, trunk and tail that act as detectors of water flow. The lateral line system plays a critical role in a wide range of behaviors of fundamental ecological significance (e.g., prey detection, predator avoidance, navigation, social communication). We have studied a wide variety of fishes from sharks and skates, to zebrafish and butterflyfish over the years. With funding from a major NSF grant, we are currently looking at one of the four types of lateral line canals found among fishes - widened canals - which are considered to be an adaptation for the non-visual detection of prey. Two species of cichlid fishes are being used to look at the pattern and timing of development of widened vs. narrow canals and the sensory organs contained within them to determine the developmental basis for adaptive evolutionary change in the lateral line canal system, and the role of the lateral line system in the detection of sand-dwelling prey (an explicit test of adaptive significance). Our approach to the study of the lateral line is making fundamental connections among the fields of development, evolution, behavior, and ecology. We use a wide range of morphological methods (histology, fluorescent imaging, ÁCT imaging, etc.) as well as behavioral assays and quantitative analysis of HD video recordings.


The Program

The Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program (INP) offers a Master of Science (M.S.) degree, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, or a Certificate in the Neurosciences. The program provides broad instruction across several neuroscience disciplines and gives students an opportunity to focus on a specific area of specialization.

Executive Committee Organizational Chart



Request for Proposals Rhode Island Neuroscience Collaborative Pilot Study Awards - Deadline for Applications: April15, 2014