Thoughts and Findings Related to Neurobiology Lab

As one of my fellow classmates has already described in part, we have proposed to study the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol on zebrafish. We have a good idea of how to execute experimentation on this topic. The meaning behind it however remains, as of yet, a bit vague. The idea was brought up during our last class discussion that we could experiment with the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol on zebrafish development or adult mating and feeding patterns. We also thought of experimenting with the behavior of zebrafish on cocaine, or with the effects of alcohol and sleep deprivation on oursleves but neither of those ideas flew too high with PZ. Understandably so.

Although, while researching, I didn’t find too many articles on intoxicated and sleep deprived zebrafish, I did find a lot of articles on genes and regeneration. In one experiment, researchers surgically removed a small portion of zebrafish hearts and then monitored recovery. The zebrafish were not only able to regenerate the removed portion of their hearts within two months, the regenerated heart tissue functioned the same and looked histiologically the same as the heart tissue of zebrafish in the control group (Poss, Wilson, & Keating). Another group of researchers discussed the effects of cyclic adenosine monophosphate on neuron regeneration in zebrafish (Bhatt, Otto, Depoister, & Fetcho). This could obviously have significant implications on human neuron regeneration.

After thinking about my findings for a moment, I discovered the reason why articles about regeneration out number articles on the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol. Areas of research like regeneration are much more useful, not as well understood, and provide lots of room for scientific advancement. I’m not sure that I have the skill or tools required to surgically alter an organism the size of a minnow or track specific chemicals throughout the nervous system but I’ll definately be giving some thought to possibilities for regeneration experiments over the weekend. If anyone has any suggestions, I would be pleased to read them.


Kenneth D. Poss, Lindsay G. Wilson, Mark T. Keating. Heart Regeneration in Zebrafish. Science. 13 December 2002. Vol. 298. no. 5601, pp. 2188 – 2190

Dimple H. Bhatt, Stefanie J. Otto, Brett Depoister, Joseph R. Fetcho. Cyclic AMP-Induced Repair of Zebrafish Spinal Circuits. Science. 9 July 2004. Vol. 305. no. 5681, pp. 254 – 258

Discussion of the History of Neurobiology

In PZ’s class we’re reading and discussing Soul Made Flesh by Carl Zimmer. This non-fiction book follows the journey that neurobiology has made throughout its history. The details of this history that most prominently catch my attention are the logic, methods, and observations upon which early discoveries were built.

Plato got the ball rolling with his theory that the body consists of three souls. The human soul resides in the head where it can sense surroundings and and divinely reason about their meaning. The vegetative soul resides in the abdomen where it initiates growth, lustful desires, and so forth; and the vital soul resides in the heart where it radiates love and compassion. (Zimmer, 2004) Plato’s theory of souls was based primarily on thought and reason but is well considered and worthy of being scribed into one of the first pages of history.

Aristotle (Plato’s student) dissected a vast array of animals, most likely seeing the importance of taking it apart to see what’s inside in understanding how they work. If I myself were, for example, asked to draw a diagram of the inner workings of a wrist watch, I would fail miserably. A few centuries after the time of Plato, Galen gained a further understanding of anatomy by studying the massive wounds sustained by gladiators. The works of Aristotle and Galen remained the dominant teachings for well over a thousand years.

Gradually, around the 17th century, new ideologies began to refute the traditional teachings on human anatomy and the mind. Descartes published Discourse on Method which presented philosophical arguments about thought and human existence. William Harvey introduced the controversial idea that blood circulates through vessels. Thomas Willis, Robert Boyle, and other members of the Oxford Circle began laying the foundations of modern neurobiology by carrying out progressive experiments that no one had ever thought of before. (Zimmer, 2004)

How exciting it must have been to watch, first hand, the beginnings of this intricate science unfold. I sometimes think about what sort of contribution, if any at all, I could have made if I could somehow have been a student at Oxford hundreds of years ago, bringing with me my limited sophomore understanding of chemistry and biology. I’m excited to continue reading Soul Made Flesh to see where history goes from here. If you haven’t read this book, it provides an excellently thorough account of neurobiology from the very beginning. I will be sure revisit this subject as I continue to read and as we continue to discuss it in class.


Zimmer, Carl. 2004. Soul Made Flesh. Free Press, New York, NY.

An Introduction

To be quite honest, I’ve never written for a blog before. That seems as good of a sentence as any to start off with. Each week my fellow neurobiology students and I will be writing about something to what we’re studying in class. We may write thoughts on our discussions of the non-fiction books we’re reading, or perhaps things in our everyday lives that pertain to neurobiology that we may not have noticed before. The only instructions we’ve been given are to have fun writing about anything that relates to neurobiology.

Backtracking a bit, I’m a college sophomore majoring in chemistry and biology. The reason I’m taking neurobiology is that I would like to learn more about the biophysics behind nervous systems. So far our neurobiology class is very interesting and enjoyable. I hope that everyone enjoys reading and/or critiquing our compositions over the next few months.