Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Ajay Mathuru on 27 March


Speaker: Dr. Ajay Mathuru

Title: Scents and sensibilities: Social mechanisms that regulate innate fear in the zebrafish

Date: 27 March, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


The behaviour of animals living in groups is influenced by information they receive from social partners in a variety of ways. Zebrafish are small, fresh-water fish species that live in social groups called shoals. In these animals, alarm pheromones (semiochemicals called Schreckstoff) released by an injury to a companion triggers fear in others and elicit behaviours aimed at evading predators. In contrast, fearful zebrafish recover better from this experience when in presence of calm, non-fearful companions. Interestingly, zebrafish display a learned recognition of their social partners. Subjects show a more complete recovery including suppression of hormones of the Hypothalamic-Pitutary-Adrenal axis (HPI axis in fish) and oxytocin level changes (isotocin in fish) when in the presence of familiar conspecifics. Using this vertebrate with a relatively small brain, a longer-term goal in my research is to understand the neural, genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying fear induction and its attenuation.

About the Speaker:

I am a neuroscientist with an interest in understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie behaviour. I study innate behaviours motivated by both rewards and punishments. For my research, I combine quantitative behavioral assays, in vivo live optical imaging of neural activity and genetic manipulations. My research can be best described as applying a systems neuroscience approach to neuroethology.

I received my Ph.D. degree from the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India (2006), where I worked with Prof. Upi Bhalla on the nature of biophysical and biochemical coupling at hippocampal synapses during synaptic plasticity.

Current Academic Position: Early Career Researcher, IMCB, A-STAR, Singapore 2012-Current

Past: Senior Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Partnership (Duke-NUS/A-STAR), Singapore 2009-2012. Research Fellow, Temasek Lifesciences Labs, Singapore 2006-2009

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