Rebecca Poulsen DJ’ing at a popular Sydney nightclub © Luke DavidsPhotography.

A DJ-turned-researcher at The University of Queensland has used her knowledgeof cool beats to understand brain networks and hearing in baby fish.

The ‘Fish DJ’ used her acoustic experience to design a speaker system forzebrafish larvae and discovered that their hearing is considerably better thanoriginally thought.

PhD candidate Rebecca Poulsen from the Queensland Brain Institute said thatcombining this new speaker system with whole-brain imaging showed how larvaecan hear a range of different sounds they would encounter in the wild.

“For many years my music career has been in music production and DJ-ing — I’vefound underwater acoustics to be a lot more complicated than air frequencies,”Ms Poulsen said.

“I designed the speaker to attach to the chamber the larvae are in, so all thesound I play is accurately received by the larvae, with no loss through theair.”

Ms Poulsen said people did not often think about underwater hearing, but itwas crucial for fish survival – to escape predators, find food and communicatewith each other.

Ms Poulsen worked with Associate Professor Ethan Scott, who specialises in theneural circuits and behaviour of sensory processing, to study the zebrafishand find out how their neurons work together to process sounds.

The tiny size of the zebrafish larvae allows researchers to study their entirebrain under a microscope and see the activity of each brain cell individually.


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