Rhiannon Jeans, PhD Student
B. Psychology (Hons)
I started my PhD in the van Swinderen lab mid-2015. Previously, I did a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (Honours) at the Australian National University in Canberra. During my undergraduate years, I was fortunate to be a part of the Summer Scholarship program, and worked under the supervision of Dr Deborah Apthorp to study the attentional blink on alpha oscillations (8-12Hz) using human electrophysiology (EEG). This was my first experience using EEG (including experiencing EEG first-hand as a subject), and I found it so interesting I decided to continue doing EEG for my Honours project. This project focused on form perception using EEG, under the supervision of Dr Andrew James at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR).
What drew me to the van Swinderen lab was the lab’s specialty in the intersection between vision, attention, general anaesthesia, and sleep. As somebody interested in consciousness, loss of consciousness seemed like a good approach to understand the neural correlates of consciousness. Therefore, I had sought out laboratories focusing on sleep or anaesthesia. I found the idea of studying not just one or the other, but both, as I would in the Swinderen lab, particularly appealing. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find a human or mammalian based lab focusing specifically on these topics. Before coming to QBI, the paper that sold to me the idea of studying consciousness in the fly, was Bruno’s 2005 Bioessays paper: “The remote roots of consciousness in fruit-fly selective attention?”. Turns out, animal models like Drosophila can shed mechanistic insights on complex biological problems like sleep and general anaesthesia, brain states which remain elusive even in mammalian animals.
My PhD project involves using a multichannel preparation, first developed by prior lab member Angelique Paulk, to measure local field potentials across the fly brain, to study functional connectivity during sleep and general anaesthesia. The ability of the brain to communicate effectively is disrupted in these states, leading to changes in sensory processing, even in animals with tiny brains like the fruit fly.