Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham
Hair cells are the sensory receptors required for proper hearing and balance. In hair cells, function is shaped by summation of local calcium signals that ultimately trigger vesicle release in order to encode a sensory stimulus. Our previous studies showed that calcium signals were extremely heterogeneous within a neuromast cluster, with a subset showing a more robust and persistent calcium influx. It was only in this later subset of hair cells that we observed vesicle release. My current project aims to determine the underlying reasons for this functional heterogeneity and to determine why a sensory organ would be organized to function in this manner.