Australian scientist gets baby fish to bust a move to MC Hammer classic | Education

What occurs contained in the mind of a baby zebrafish while you play MC Hammer’s timeless 1990 hip-hop monitor, U Can’t Contact This, and why is that this even a query?

“I’ve spent a lot of time trying on the video time and again to see if there are neurons that reply to the bass or the vocal. For my part, there’s one thing there.”

As Australia’s first feminine dance music producer and DJ, Rebecca Poulsen – aka BeXta – is a pioneer, with scores of tracks, mixes and tons of of gigs across the globe beneath her belt.

Rebecca Poulson in her DJ life

Researcher Rebecca Poulsen in her DJ life. {Photograph}: Luke Davids

However between DJ gigs, the 46-year-old is now again at college finding out neuroscience at Queensland Mind Institute on the College of Queensland in Brisbane.

And a part of this includes gently securing baby zebrafish inside a chamber after which enjoying them sounds whereas scanning their brains with a laser and taking a look at what occurs via a microscope.

The outcomes of Poulsen’s sound experiments have been printed within the journal Current Biology.

The evaluation for the research doesn’t take a look at how the fish larvae react throughout Hammer time, however how their mind cells react to easy single-frequency sounds.

“It instructed us their listening to vary was broader than we thought it was earlier than,” she says.

Poulsen additionally tried extra complicated sounds, like white noise and “frequency sweeps”, which she describes as “just like the sound when Wile E Coyote falls off a cliff” within the Street Runner cartoons.

“If you take a look at the neurons that gentle up at every sound, they’re distinctive. The fish can inform the distinction between complicated and completely different sounds.”

That is, fortunately, the place MC Hammer is available in.

Out {of professional} and scientific curiosity – and in addition presumably simply because she may – Poulsen performed music to the fish.

She composed her personal piece of dance music and that did appear to gentle issues up.

DJ Rebecca Poulsen performed her personal composition to zebrafish after which watched its impact on their brains.

However what about U Can’t Contact This?


“You possibly can see when the vocal goes ‘ohhh-oh’, particular neurons gentle up and you’ll see it pulses to the beat. To me it appears like neurons responding to completely different components of the music.

“I do just like the monitor. I used to be fairly little when it got here out and I liked it. I didn’t have the harem pants, although, however I did used to do the dance.”

And so, when Poulsen printed an early model of her analysis earlier than it had been via peer overview, she tagged MC Hammer on Twitter with a video of the fish mind lighting up to his tune.


Can #zebrafish encode the distinctive properties of sound? Like pure tones vs white noise, or completely different formed waveforms? Our new #preprint from @labEthan says sure! Take a look at our instance with @McHammer! Can you discover the vocal neurons? #auditory #phdLife #HammerTime 1/

September 22, 2020

Later that day, MC Hammer tweeted a hyperlink to Poulsen’s work-in-progress. “That was superior,” says Poulsen.


Broad frequency sensitivity and sophisticated neural coding within the larval zebrafish auditory system | #Hamm400aos 🎧

September 22, 2020

Finishing up this analysis offered two large issues.

How do you cease the fish from swimming away whilst you play them sounds? And the way do you get a speaker sufficiently small to ship completely different volumes and frequencies with out startling the fish?

For the primary downside, the baby zebrafish – simply 3mm lengthy – are contained in a jelly-like substance that lets them breathe “however stops them from swimming away and retains them good and nonetheless so we are able to picture them”.

For the second downside, Poulsen and colleagues used a speaker simply 1cm extensive and caught it to the glass of the 2cm-cubed chamber the fish was contained in.

Utilizing fish larvae has its benefits. “They’re so tiny we are able to see their entire mind … we are able to see the entire mind stay in actual time.”

The concept that fish can hear and react to music isn’t new, Poulsen factors out.

As a result of zebrafish are a frequent topic for experiments, one other group of researchers have claimed playing them a couple of hours of Vivaldi twice a day for 15 days made them calmer and helped a part of their immune system.

“So why would fish be joyful listening to music?” asks Poulsen.

“It’s not one thing that’s of their setting. Is that this one thing that’s elementary to animals? That raises some large philosophical questions in my thoughts.”

Poulsen says all animals want to find a way to perceive the knowledge coming in to them via sound.

“They want to do this to survive. For a fish, that is likely to be to know a predator is approaching, or if there’s one thing hitting the water. That goes all the best way up to people the place now we have to find a way to discriminate between completely different sounds.”

When Poulsen left college, she studied sonology at Griffith College’s Queensland Conservatorium after which did a graduate certificates in autism and a masters in training. After which she went off touring and making music for 20 years.

Finally, Poulsen is utilizing the zebrafish brains as a mannequin as a result of she thinks they may inform us one thing about how completely different sounds may assist individuals with autism to higher perceive their world.

However earlier than that, she has a DJ gig to prepare for in Brisbane this weekend.

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