Overview of our Research

We focus on how central nervous system myelin develops and adapts to the environment. The major questions we are addressing are:

Development. How do oligodendrocytes target their myelin sheaths to only certain subsets of nerve axons, while leaving other axon types unmyelinated? Which genes are required for sheath targeting? 

Plasticity. Do experiences or changes to neural activity cause oligodendrocytes to shift myelin onto, away from, or between circuits? Which genes regulate the extent that individual axons are myelinated in an activity-dependent manner?

Evolution. When and how did the oligodendrocyte cell type, myelinating phenotype, and adaptive myelination program first evolve?

Our primary research organism is the embryonic and larval zebrafish, due to its transparency and ease of genetic manipulation.



A singly-labeled pre-myelinating oligodendrocyte in the 3 dpf zebrafish spinal cord. Color represents z-depth.

A singly-labeled pre-myelinating oligodendrocyte in the 3 dpf zebrafish spinal cord. Color changes represent movements during a 15-min time-lapse imaging movie.

A single myelinating oligodendrocyte in the zebrafish spinal cord. 

To learn more about our research, click below for projects or publications.

The Neural Development Lab is housed within the Department of Biology and College of Science & Engineering at Winona, State University. 

Recent News

Sept 2020. Lab alum A.J. Treichel began his Ph.D. studies at Stowers Institute (see feature article here)

Dec 2020   New grants awarded!  

Congrats to Katie Waller and Sakib Khan. Both were awarded WSU student grants to support their supplies.

Aug 2020.   James Gronseth started graduate school and his graduate fellowship in the lab.

For archived lab news & events, click here.

Jan 2020   Welcome new undergraduate researchers

Sophomore Madison Schaefer and Junior Kelsey Sobeck join the team for the spring semester to start a new project. 

Sept 2020   New paper from the lab: 

"Individual neuronal subtypes control initial myelin sheath growth and stabilization" is now published and viewable at Neural Development. Congrats to Heather Nelson and all co-authors.