Neural Circuits and Development Lab
  • slidebg Neural Circuits and Development Lab

    Neural Circuits and Development Lab

About us

For most animal species, survival depends critically on the ability to move- be it for feeding, escaping predators or selecting a suitable mate. To generate movement, skeletal muscles need to be contracted in precisely coordinated patterns. Neural circuits control the spatial and temporal pattern of skeletal muscle contractions. Our lab is interested in understanding the hierarchy, mechanisms and development of neural circuits that generate movement.

In vertebrates, the circuits that control movement are found in the spinal cord and in the brain. The spinal circuits controlling the generation of locomotion are referred to as ‘central pattern generators’ as the output from these circuits is patterned and rhythmic electrical activity sent to the muscles. These central pattern generators are in turn controlled by sensory drive and by commands from the locomotory centers of the brain. My lab focuses on the development of central pattern generators and the development of descending motor control from the brain. We also seek to understand the mechanisms by which brain locomotor circuits control movement in mature organisms.

We use zebrafish, a small fresh water tropical fish endemic to the Ganges, as our model system. The embryonic and larval stages of these fish are transparent allowing for direct visual observation of developing internal organs including the brain. We employ a suite of techniques to tease out the circuitry responsible for generating swimming in developing and more mature zebrafish. ... We record electrical activity from individual spinal and brain neurons using extracellular and whole-cell patch clamp techniques. We record activity from populations of neurons simultaneously using calcium imaging. We generate transgenic zebrafish to express proteins of interest in particular neurons. This allows us to selectively ablate and also to electrically activate/inactivate specific populations at will. Using these cutting edge tools and technologies, we hope to throw light on the development of neural circuits and the neural basis of locomotion.

Meet the Team

Vatsala Thirumalai

Principal Investigator

Urvashi Jha

Research Scholar

Sriram Narayanan

Research Scholar

Harshavardan B N

Research Scholar

Sahana Sitaraman

Research Scholar

Jagadeesh PT

Fish Facility Incharge

Shivangi Verma

Research Scholar

Gnaneshwar V Yadav

Post Doctoral Fellow

Vandana Agarwal

Research Scholar

Aalok J Varma

Research Scholar

Meha Jadhav

Research Scholar

Dilip M Variyam

Junior Research Fellow

Poonam Mishra

Post Doctoral Fellow

Our Alumni

Varsha Ramakrishna

Junior Research Fellow (2018-2019)

Lena Mareike Josefine Robra

Research Scholar (2012-2018)

Mohini Sengupta

Research Scholar (2011-2016)


We are a smart, energetic and passionate group of researchers and welcome others with similar qualities to join us. To be a member of our group, you must be intelligent, hard-working, passionate about science and get along well with other people. We have positions open at the following levels:

  • Summer interns: Summer interns are chosen through the IAS summer fellowship program, the NCBS-Harvard joint program etc. If you want to do a summer internship in my lab, you must come through these designated programs.
  • Junior Research Fellowship (JRF): I will consider only CSIR-NET qualified JRFs. If you have a CSIR fellowship, write to me explaining why you want to join our group.
  • Ph.D Studentship: To be a Ph.D student in my lab, you must enter the NCBS Ph.D or Integrated Ph.D programs.
  • Post-doctoral fellowship: If you’ve recently (as in the last one year) completed your Ph.D or will be completing soon and wish to apply for a post-doctoral position in my lab, send me an enquiry with your CV.
  • Send all enquiries to vatsala at