Steven Zottoli, PhD
MBL Adjunct Senior Scientist
Marine Biological Laboratory
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543
After complete damage to their spinal cords, mammalian vertebrates do not regainfunction below the wound site. In contrast, after an equivalent injury, non-mammalian vertebrates (e.g., fish and amphibians) are capable of recovery. What is the neuronalbasis of this recovery?
Spinal cord crushes result in the loss of function below the wound in goldfish. Over a period of months, a number of behaviors — including startle responses, swimming, equilibrium, the ability to maneuver and feed from the surface — return in about 50% of the fish studied. Startle response recovery has been chosen as the index of regeneration because this behavior is quantifiable and because identifiable cells are known to participate in this response. Initial recovery of the startle response is quite different from that of uninjured fish — so much so that it is questionable whether the startle response would be functional (i.e., the speed with which the response occurs may be too slow for it to act in predator avoidance). However, in long-term studies some fish are capable of regaining startle responses that are indistinguishable from controls. By using physiological and histological techniques in conjunction with these behavioral findings, we hope to determine the neuronal basis of startle recovery and how it might vary between fish.
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