Contact Information:

Dr. Barbara S. Beltz
Hallowell Farwell Professor of Biology

106 Central Street
Wellesley College
Wellesley, MA 02481-8203
Office:  SC 383

Phone: 781-283-3048 (office)
781-283-3350 (lab)
Fax: 781-283-3642

Beltz Lab homepage



B.A. Biology and English, Mount Holyoke College
M.A., Ph.D. Neuroscience, Princeton University
Postdoctoral training Neurobiology Department, Harvard Medical School

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Wellesley courses currently taught:

BISC 110 Introductory Cell Biology
BISC 213 The Biology of Brain and Behavior
BISC 306 Principles of Neural Development

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Members of the Beltz laboratory, including undergraduate students, actively participate in regional, national and international conferences and organizations: Society for Neuroscience (, East Coast Nerve Net (, International Society for Neuroethology (  In addition, we maintain an active affiliation with the Mt. Desert Island Biological Laboratory ( in Bar Harbor, ME, where we spend several weeks each summer doing research and working with students.

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Research Interests: 
links to Neuroscience Web site and Beltz Lab website

1. Summary

Regulation of Life-long Neurogenesis

New neurons are born throughout life in the brains of many organisms, including humans.  My laboratory’s primary focus is understanding the sequence of events that leads to the production of new nerve cells, and the regulatory events that influence this process.   Our current work asks how environmental signals influence electrical and chemical signals in the brain, thereby altering the production or differentiation of new neurons.  Using the crustacean brain as our experimental model, we have defined the roles of serotonin, nitric oxide, the day-night cycle and dominance status in the these events.   We also have identified the stem cells that produce the new neurons, and the migratory pathway followed by the newborn cells. Our studies test how environmental (day-night cycle; tides; diet), behavioral (locomotion; social interaction) and endogenous (hormones; serotonin; melatonin; electrical activity in the brain) signals result in the selective activation of neuronal and molecular pathways controlling neurogenesis.

Regions in the crayfish brain are labeled with dextran coupled
with micro-ruby and micro-emerald dyes.

The tract-tracing dye DiI is used to trace projections from regions
in the crayfish brain.


2. Current Student Projects

Suzanne Forrest (’06) is examining the influence of strobe light on the rate of neurogenesis and locations of newborn neurons in adult crayfish brain.

Maria Genco (’06) is using miniature transponders glued to the backs of crayfish to record locomotory activity patterns.  These “mini-mitters”, connected to a remote computer, will allow Maria to correlate the animals’ movements with the day-night cycle and with levels of neurogenesis.

Do-Quyen Pham (’06), working with Nancy Kolodny in the Chemistry Department, is using MRI techniques to examine the response of the olfactory pathway after (1) stimulation of the olfactory sensory receptors with taurine, and (2) ablation of the antennule containing these receptors.

Jane Rodgers (’06), working with Nancy Kolodny in the Chemistry Department, is using MRI techniques to test whether manganese can be utilized as a neural activity marker in the crayfish brain.  She is doing this using photic stimulation of crayfish while in the MRI tube, to see whether the visual pathway is differentially enhanced.

3. Future Directions

In addition to the topics reviewed above, we are also developing the crustacean brain as a model for environmental toxicology.  Because neurogenesis is life-long in many animals, this process may be particularly sensitive to environmental toxins.  In order to explore this possibility, we are testing how organophosphate pesticides influence the birth and differentiation of new neurons, and expect that the crustacean brain will provide a very sensitive assay for the effects of toxic substances in the nervous system.

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Research Collaborators

Dr. Daniel Hartline, Békésy Laboratory of Neurobiology, University of Hawaii
Dr. Robert Huber, Department of Biological Sciences, Bowling Green University PDF file
Dr. Nancy Kolodny, Department of Chemistry, Wellesley College pdf to Brinkley et al., 2005 PDF file
Dr. Edward Kravitz, Neurobiology Department, Harvard Medical School PDF file PDF file
Dr. Eve Marder, Volen Center and Biology Department, Brandeis University PDF file
Dr. DeForest Mellon, Department of Biology, University of Virginia pdf to McKinzie et al 2003 PDF file
Dr. David Sandeman, formerly at the School of Biological Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia PDF file PDF file
Dr. Michael Tlusty, Edgerton Lab, New England Aquarium, Boston
Dr. Gro van der Meeren, Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway

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Recent publications
(see Curriculum Vitae for a complete list; papers co-authored with students are highlighted)

Harzsch S, *Miller J, Benton J, Beltz B (1999) From embryo to adult: Persistent neurogenesis and apoptotic cell death shape the crustacean deutocerebrum. Journal of Neuroscience 19:3472-3485.

Sullivan JM, Benton JL, Beltz BS (2000) Serotonin depletion in vivo inhibits the branching of olfactory projection neurons in the lobster deutocerebrum. Journal of Neuroscience 20:7716-7721.

Beltz BS, Benton JL, Sullivan JM (2001) Transient uptake of serotonin by newborn olfactory projection neurons may mediate their survival. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science  98:12730-12735.

Sullivan JM, Beltz BS (2001) Development and connectivity of olfactory pathways in the brain of the lobster Homarus americanus. Journal of Comparative Neurology 441:23-43.

Benton JL, Beltz BS (2002) Patterns of neurogenesis in the midbrain of embryonic lobsters are different from proliferation in the insect and crustacean ventral nerve cord. Journal of Neurobiology 53: 57-67.

Goergen, E, *Bagay LA, Rehm K, Benton JL, Beltz BS (2002) Circadian control of neurogenesis. Journal of Neurobiology 53: 90-95.

Beltz BS, *Kordas K, *LeeMM, *LongJB, BentonJL, SandemanDC (2003) Ecological, evolutionary and functional correlates of sensilla number and glomerular density in the olfactory system of decapod crustaceans. Journal of Comparative Neurology 455: 260-269.

Beltz BS, Sandeman DC (2003) Regulation of life-long neurogenesis in the decapod crustacean brain.  Arthropod Structure and Development 32:39-60.

Sullivan JM, Beltz BS (2004) Evolutionary changes in the olfactory projection neuron pathways of eumalacostracan crustaceans.  Journal of Comparative Neurology 470:25-38.

Wildt M, Goergen EM, Benton JL, Sandeman DC, Beltz BS (2004) Regulation of serotonin levels by multiple light-entrainable endogenous rhythms Journal of Experimental Biology 207:3765-74.

*Brinkley CK, Kolodny NH, Kohler SJ, Sandeman DC, Beltz BS (2005) Magnetic resonance imaging at 9.4 T as a tool for studying neural anatomy in non-vertebrates. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 146:124-132.

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Curriculum Vitae

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