Daniel Alfonso Colón-Ramos PhD
Associate Professor of Cell Biology
Neural connectivity; Brain; Nematode C. elegans
The human brain consists of 100 billion neurons and over 100 trillion synapses. The ability of a neuron to find its correct target in this complex environment is critical for the formation of the circuits that underlie human behavior. How do neurons discriminate between a plethora of target choices to form precise synaptic connections and assemble specific neural circuits? How do circuits become substrates to experience, and change during to learning?
We have established a system in the C. elegans nerve ring (the nematode brain) to study these questions. The C. elegans nerve ring, the most complex neuropil structure in the organism, is precisely wired to facilitate the nematode’s behaviors. In my lab we examine the decisions that single neurons make in the living, developing animal as they assemble into a functioning brain, and how these connections change during behaviors.
Our lab couples genetic, molecular, biochemical, behavioral and imaging techniques to identify the signals that direct precise circuit connectivity in the nematode brain and how they change during behavior and learning.