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.

James Angstadt
Siena College

In my lab we are attempting to determine the types of ion channels that underlie interesting neuronal electrical properties such as postinhibitory rebound and afterhyperpolarizing potentials.  In addition to physiological and pharmacological approaches, I am collaborating with David Weisblat and his colleagues at UC Berkeley to identify channels in various leech neurons using in situ hybridization.  Jim has been an NS&B faculty member since 2008.

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.



Brian Norris
California State University San Marcos

Research Interests: 
Generating boatloads of Data for Angela Wenning, much of which she discards.

Brian was an NS&B student in 1982 and a TA in 1992. He has been a faculty member in the leech module since 2006.

Ulises Ricoy
Northern New Mexico College

Ulises Ricoy is Dean of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Biology at Northern New Mexico College. Ulises has pioneered low cost approaches in rural neuroscience utilizing behavior, physiology and computation with undergraduates. He received doctoral training with Joe L. Martinez Jr., (SPINES course Co-Founder at MBL) in behavioral neuroscience. Ulises was a postdoc with Matt Frerking at the Vollum Institute/OHSU examining synaptic dynamics in central synapses upon behavioral relevant stimulus patterns. Ulises was a SPINES course assistant in 2004, SPINES student in 2005, and Neurobiology student in 2006.


Lidia Szczupak
Universidad de Buenos Aires

My lab studies the structure of networks that control motor behaviors in the leech, using classical electrophysiology and calcium imaging. In collaboration with Dr. Horacio Rotstein (New Jersey Institutes of Technology) we use mathematical models to test the hypotheses that emerge from our studies; and in collaboration with David Weisblat we are studying the role of electrical synapses in these networks.

I have organized and taught in several international courses in South America (Buenos Aires, Cuba and Uruguay) supported by IBRO, and I’ve been a faculty member of NS&B since 2000.


Krista 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.

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.

Jess Breda
Westminster College

I’m a recent graduate from Westminster College in Salt Lake City where I worked on a comparative analysis of reproductive behavior and corresponding neural circuitry in two species of leech with Dr. Krista Todd. I’m also a past research fellow for Backyard Brains where I designed an amplifier and corresponding experiments to study insect olfaction in the silk moth and cockroach. I’m currently in the midst of interviewing for neuroscience PhD programs, so stay tuned!