Oriana Salazar Thula

University of Vienna

Oriana Salazar Thula is a Venezuelan Ph.D. student working in the lab of Manuel Zimmer at the University of Vienna, Austria. Born and raised in Caracas, she left her home country at the age of 19 to pursue her undergraduate studies in Biology at the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany. In 2014, she moved to Heidelberg, Germany to pursue a molecular biosciences M.Sc. degree. While participating in the Vienna Biocenter Summer School internship program in Vienna, she worked in the lab of Manuel Zimmer, where she later returned to for her M.Sc. thesis work. Since 2017, she is pursuing her Ph.D. in the Zimmer lab, where she focuses on motor neuron dynamics in the C. elegans nervous system. A first-generation university student from Latin America, Oriana is very passionate about improving the opportunities for underrepresented minorities in science and education.

Principal Investigator: Manuel Zimmer

Fellow: Josefine Meyer

“The role of oscillatory motor neuron activity in sensory integration”
We will investigate whether the coupling of a Central Pattern Generator (CPG) circuit that drives local head movement to global brain activity could play a role in the integration of sensory inputs in C. elegans. The activity of the immobilized C. elegans brain shows signals that are shared across many neurons. These coordinated, cyclical dynamics represent the worm’s major motor commands assembled into an action sequence used for food search. CPG neurons or circuits generate rhythmic neuronal activity to drive rhythmic behaviors. Neurons that are part of CPGs experience periodic membrane potential fluctuations. If these signals are passed onto neurons involved in sensory input processing, CPGs could create a bias in their excitability and thus create windows of integration for sensory information. We will probe this hypothesis using optogenetics, behaviour analysis in freely-moving worms, and calcium imaging.

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