Sutherland Dube


Dr. Bruce McNaughton


  • B.Sc. Neuroscience (Hons.) – University of Lethbridge (2012).

Current Funding

  1. 2013 – (max. 4 years) Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions Graduate Studentship.
  2. 2013 – 2014 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – Canada Graduate Scholarship.
  3. 2013 – 2014 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement.

Research Interests

Immediate-early gene expression dynamics, neocortical minicolumn development and functional characterization, calcium imaging using genetically encoded calcium indicators, development of transgenic immediate-early gene reporter mice and rats.

Project Descriptions

  1. Functional neural circuit analysis using genetically encoded calcium indicators. Viral vector technologies and genetic engineering are proving to be invaluable tools in the study of neural circuits, providing detailed information on neuroanatomical connections between areas of the brain. However, the ability to characterize the specific functional relationship within these circuits is still limited. The objective of this research project is to (1) further develop and implement a method that enables the characterization of neural circuits both anatomically and functionally, and to (2) utilize this method to study how output from the hippocampus influences spatial context encoding in the neocortex (here we will focus on superficial layers of visual and posterior parietal cortex).
  2. Cortical minicolumn visualization and characterization. The neocortex consists of six horizontal layers covering the outermost portion of the brain, and is organized into discrete vertical microcircuits known as minicolumns. These functionally distinct modules are thought to be the fundamental processing units of the neocortex, and are an integral component in studying its functional architecture. Despite their significance, there has yet to be any way of identifying these columns throughout the neocortex. The goal of this project is twofold: (1) to provide a way of visualizing cortical minicolumns and (2) to analyze whether minicolumns act as discrete processing units. These methods will allow for large-scale identification and analysis of the functional basis of the cortical minicolumn.
  3. Persistent transcription of immediate-early gene Homer1a following MECS. Immediate-early genes (IEGs) are rapidly and transiently expressed following behaviourally induced neural activity. The detection of the transcribed mRNA within neuronal nuclei enable the use of IEGs to infer the history of neural activation following behavioural events with cellular resolution through quantification of the appearance of intranuclear transcription foci (INF). IEG expression can be induced in all competent neurons by maximal electroconvulsive shock (MECS). While the conventional method of characterizing INF is Boolean (i.e. present or not present), several previous studies suggest that INF size and intensity characteristics may correlate with mRNA levels (Penner et al., 2011) and in turn this may correlate with the total spike activity of neurons over a certain temporal window (Miyashita et al., 2009 and see Witharana et al, unpublished results). This goal of this project is to conduct quantitative analysis of Homer1a INF characteristics following MECS in various brain regions.