BCS Special Seminar with Luis Hernandez Nunez

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 at 10:00am to 11:00am

Building 46, Singleton
43 VASSAR ST, Cambridge, MA 02139

Talk Title:

The heart-brain balancing act: The function and development of motor and sensory circuits for cardiac feedback control

Talk Abstract:

Neural control of cardiac function is essential for survival, yet the functional diversity of the sensory and motor circuits of the heart remains poorly understood. Here we take a multidisciplinary approach, combining systems neuroscience techniques, genetics, and control theory to study the role of cardiac sensory and motor circuits in larval zebrafish. While larval zebrafish’s optic and genetic accessibility has made it a widely used organism for studying how the brain processes environmental cues to modulate behavior, it had not yet been used to study organ control or the autonomic nervous system (ANS) from a systems neuroscience perspective. Thus, we use calcium imaging, optogenetics, pharmacology, and electron microscopy to map the developmental time course of anatomical and functional innervation of the heart. We identify the emergence of parasympathetic and sympathetic control of the heart, as well as the anatomically defined neural populations needed for heart modulation. We also show the onset of cardiac sensing and identify a new type of interoceptor. Our study provides a timeline of developmental landmarks of the autonomic circuits for heart feedback control and sets the stage for future mechanistic studies of neurocardiac circuits.

Short Bio:

Luis Hernandez-Nunez is a Warren Alpert Distinguished Scholar, a Branco Weiss fellow, and a Life Sciences Research Foundation (LSRF) postdoctoral fellow at the laboratory of Florian Engert at Harvard University. Luis’ research is focused on the circuit mechanisms for heart-brain interactions in zebrafish. Luis has also been awarded a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface (BWF-CASI) to support his transition to a junior faculty position. Luis obtained his Ph.D. in Systems Biology from Harvard in 2020. He conducted his doctoral research in Aravinthan Samuel’s lab, where he discovered molecules, cells, and circuits that mediate thermal homeostasis in larval Drosophila. Before graduate school, Luis was an undergraduate and then a postbac researcher at Thierry Emonet’s lab at Yale University. Prior to moving to the U.S., Luis studied mechatronics engineering at the National University of Engineering in Peru.

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