228 McGuire Life Sciences Building
PO Box: AC# 2237
Please call the college operator at 413-542-2000 or e-mail info@amherst.edu if you require contact info@amherst.edu

Josef G. Trapani

Assistant Professor of Biology

(On Leave 1/1/2015 - 6/30/2015)

Departmental affiliations: Biology; Neuroscience


Sensory neurobiology, zebrafish physiology, neurophysiology


Courses in Fall 2011

Courses in Spring 2012

Courses in Fall 2012

Courses in Fall 2013

Courses in Spring 2014

Courses in Spring 2015

  • Josef G. Trapani is on leave during the Spring 2015 semester.

How is sensory information encoded into meaningful neuronal information?

Research in my lab is aimed at answering this question by understanding the process of sensory transduction. In the auditory and vestibular systems of vertebrates, the hair cell is the specialized mechanoreceptor that transforms mechanical stimuli, including sound waves, gravity, and changes in body acceleration, into electrical impulses that travel to the brain via afferent neurons. For fish and amphibians, hair cells are also utilized by an additional mechanosensory system called the lateral line. In the lateral line, clusters of hair cells form a structure called the neuromast. Located on the surface of the animal, neuromasts occur at regular, repeating intervals around the head and body and serve to detect and convey information about the movement of water near the body. This sense of “distant touch” provides for important behaviors such as mating, schooling and shoaling, predator avoidance, and detection of prey.

My lab uses a combination of fluorescence microscopy and electrophysiology to study the function of hair cells and the lateral line in zebrafish. By taking advantage of molecular biology and genetics, we have generated transgenic zebrafish that allow us to use fluorescence to visualize both specific cells and specific proteins involved in hair cell transduction. In addition, we recently created a transgenic fish line with expression of a light-activated ion channel, ChR2 in hair cells. These transgenic fish will allow us to activate either lateral-line hair cells or those in the ear of the fish using flashes of light. We have also used studied mutant zebrafish where the function of a hair-cell specific protein has been disrupted. Altogether, through electrophysiological recordings of afferent neurons that transmit hair-cell encoded information to the brain, we are able to examine sensory transduction in intact, larval zebrafish. These in vivo techniques, combined with studies of zebrafish behavior, provide a platform for us to further understand how an organism interacts with the world around it.

Links to:

Lab webpage: www.trapanilab.com

Lab Facebook page: www.facebook.com/trapanilab