Dr Yee Lian Chew
NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow University of Wollongong
Can mapping neural connectivity tell us how the brain works? A major goal of global brain research initiatives is the expensive and labour-intensive mapping of neural networks. Much of this focuses on mapping synaptic connections between neurons. However, a considerable amount of neuronal communication occurs via neuromodulators such as neuropeptides and monoamines, which can act outside synapses. Neuromodulator-dependent signalling clearly drives important behaviours. During my postdoc, we showed that locomotor and sensory behavioural sensitisation occurs in a two-step process of neuropeptide signalling involving specific afferent neuropeptides that convey mechanosensory information from sensory neurons to central interneurons, followed by these neuroendocrine centres then releasing efferent signals that convey behavioural state information to the periphery. My independent research program at the University of Wollongong aims to characterise the more specific signals that directly trigger sensitisation of peripheral nociceptors and the motor circuit. These data present the exciting possibility of using the worm as a prototype for multilayer neuronal connections in bigger brains, to advance knowledge on how synapses and neuromodulators work together to control goal-oriented, context-dependent behaviour.
Yee Lian has spent the last 9 years of her life trying to understand life through the worm. Yes, the worm: C. elegans, the tiny nematode with the completely sequenced genome and fully-mapped nervous system. She did her PhD at the University of Sydney (2011-2014) and moved to Cambridge, UK to the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (2015-2019) as a MRC Career Development Fellow (2015-16) and later an EMBO Fellow (2017-18) to study worms in colder weather. She’s currently at the University of Wollongong, starting her own research group with the goal to understand the signals that allow the networks in our brain to “learn” to adapt to a changing environment. She is passionate about outreach and creating a more diverse and inclusive environment in STEM/academia, and is a member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute. From 2020-2024, Yee Lian will be employed as an NHMRC Emerging Leader (EL1) fellow at the Molecular Horizons research institute, School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience, University of Wollongong.
Read more about Dr Yee Lian Chew work here.
Download the poster here.