Leech Module

In Cycle 1, all of the students work on the leech as an experimental system. Students learn neurophysiology and neuroanatomical techniques. Techniques include intracellular electrophysiological recordings in current clamp and voltage clamp configuration, extracellular recordings, and intracellular dye injection, and MATLAB instruction. The goal is to identify neurons by their electrophysiological properties and learn about their electrical and chemical interactions. Towards the end of the cycle students work in pairs on individual research projects that they design.

For a detailed list of lectures and activities, visit the google calendar. As a general rule of thumb, most weekdays will begin with two lectures in the morning followed by an afternoon and evening in the lab.

Since 2014, all the leech module lectures have been recorded and archived.  Please watch and tell your friends about excellent resource.

Leech Module Faculty

headshotMichael Wright
California State University, Sacramento

Research Interests: 
My lab is interested in how the nervous system produces rhythmic behaviors like walking and swimming. In particular, I am interested in the role that motor neurons, the output pathway of the nervous system, play in the production of these behaviors. My lab uses electrophysiology, modeling and a hybrid systems approach using the dynamic-clamp to address these questions.

kristaKrista Todd
Westminster College

Research Interests: 
I study the neurohormonal basis of reproductive behavior. This includes the initiation, progression, and termination of reproductive behavioral modules as well as the pattern generator(s) responsible for such complex behaviors

Krista was a TA in 2009 and has been a faculty member since 2010


Serapio Baca
University of Colorado, Denver

Dr. Baca continues his preclinical research studies on the pathophysiology of migraine and headache. He collaborates with Drs. Molly Huntsman and Diego Restrepo on projects studying Fragile X in animal models with an emphasis on inhibitory circuitry and synaptic plasticity. For all of these projects, Dr. Baca employs electrophysiological and optical methods in both anesthetized and awake, behaving animals. Dr. Baca holds a secondary research appointment in Neurology.


DavidWeisblatDavid Weisblat
UC Berkeley

My lab studies cell lineage and cell fate decisions in the leech embryo at the cellular and molecular levels. We’re interested in how leeches develop and how their development differs from those of other animals (Evo-Devo). In addition, a collaboration with Diana Bautista (UCB) and Francisco Fernandez de Miguel (UNAM, Mexico City) aims for a molecular analysis of neuronal differentiation and function, starting with transcriptional profiling of the famous T, P, N and Rz neurons from Hirudo. David joined the Leech faculty in 2015. He had previously assisted in short courses on leech neurobiology and development that were started by John Nicholls.


chris_winchellChris Winchell
UC Berkeley

I am a postdoc in David Weisblat’s lab at UC Berkeley interested in the evolution of developmental processes and morphology within Phylum Annelida. Specifically, I am using CRISPR genome editing, cell lineage tracing, and gene expression analyses to shed light on the function of Hox genes in embryos of the leech Helobdella austinensis. I am also interested in the molecular basis of cell diversity and function in the Hirudo nervous system; thus, I am thrilled to be joining the NS&B team in 2021 to help with the leech cycle.