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We discover principles that underlie animal locomotion by studying the neuroethology of locomotion in the nematode C. elegans

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Neuroethology of C. elegans locomotion

Locomotion is a fundamental behavior, generated by the nervous systems of all animals. General principles of motor control and pattern generation have been gained through study of a score of model systems, such as leech swimming and crawling, the crayfish swimmerets system or vertebrate models such as cat, rat, mouse and lamprey. Research in mice and zebrafish has taken advantage of transgenic and molecular approaches, but there is currently no transgenic model animal in which the neurons that underlie locomotion pattern generation are known. In C. elegans, although all components of the locomotion network are known, the integration of these components into an explanatory model is still lacking and the roles of each component is still unclear.

We tweak, adapt, and develop methods to study neuronal activity (e.g. calcium and bioamine sensors), connectivity (e.g. Expansion Microscopy; Yu et al, 2020), and response to injury (e.g. Yb-doped laser microsurgery; Harreguy et al, 2020, 2022).

We also take advantage of the fantastic toolbox of transgenic and optic methods developed and shared by the worm community.

Gal also edited two books that are collections of methods for C. elegans (Biron and Haspel, ed. 2015; Haspel and Hart, ed. 2022, Springer-Nature)



neurobiology of host behavior manipulation

A unique window to investigate the neural basis of behavior is offered by host manipulation of animal behavior. Some parasite or parasitoid animals chemically affect the host nervous system to produce a change in behavior that benefits them or their offspring. By studying the specific details of these phenomena, we gain insight to the function of the host nervous system and motor control.

As a graduate student with Prof. Libersat (at the Ben Gurion University), Gal was fortunate to be one of the first to study the parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa and the effect of her sting on the cockroach prey. He demonstrated, for the first time, that the wasp injects her behavior-changing venom directly into the nervous system of the prey to cause an initial paralysis, followed by three weeks of decreased arousal-state and decrease in initiation of locomotion. He studied other aspects of the behavioral manipulation, from metabolism, through biochemistry to network activity.

We love this stuff! If you are interested in up to date research, contact or follow Fred Libersat.

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