Elizabeth Heckscher

Research Summary
My lab studies the assembly, function, and evolution of circuits. Specifically, we focus on sensorimotor circuits, such as those in the spinal cord. These circuits process a variety of stimuli such as heat, light touch, pain, and self-movement. These circuits generate patterned muscle contractions underly animal movement. Movement control- My lab is interested in understanding how neural circuits implement the motor programs that allow animals to move. Our goal is to understand the functional architecture of a sensorimotor system at the cellular level. Circuit assembly- We are interested in understanding how circuits self-assemble starting from a small number of stem cells. This should generate developmental insight relevant to stem cell reprogramming that could be used to replace diseased/damaged neural tissue. Evolution of circuits- We are interested in how sensorimotor circuits change over evolutionary time scales to allow animals to control different body forms and behaviors.
Drosophila, Motor Activity, Sensory Function, Neuron, Stem Cell, Transcription Factor, Lineage, Cell, Evolution, Biological
  • Brown University, Providence, RI, BS Biology 06/2008
  • University of California, San Francisco, CA, PhD Cell Biology 04/2007
  • University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, Postdoc Neuronal Circuits 07/2015
Awards & Honors
  • 1996 - Academic All-Ivy Selection (fencing) Ivy-League
  • 1998 - Sigma Xi Membership Brown University Chapter of Sigma Xi
  • 2000 - 2005 Predoctoral Fellowship Howard Hughes Medical Insitutue
  • 2012 - 2015 Postdoctoral Fellowship American Heart Association
  1. Wang YW, Wreden CC, Levy M, Meng JL, Marshall ZD, MacLean J, Heckscher E. Sequential addition of neuronal stem cell temporal cohorts generates a feed-forward circuit in the Drosophila larval nerve cord. Elife. 2022 06 20; 11. View in: PubMed

  2. Marshall ZD, Heckscher ES. The Role of Even-Skipped in Drosophila Larval Somatosensory Circuit Assembly. eNeuro. 2022 Jan-Feb; 9(1). View in: PubMed

  3. Meng JL, Heckscher ES. Development of motor circuits: From neuronal stem cells and neuronal diversity to motor circuit assembly. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2021; 142:409-442. View in: PubMed

  4. Chi W, Liu W, Fu W, Xia S, Heckscher ES, Zhuang X. RNA-binding protein syncrip regulates starvation-induced hyperactivity in adult Drosophila. PLoS Genet. 2021 02; 17(2):e1009396. View in: PubMed

  5. Meng JL, Wang Y, Carrillo RA, Heckscher ES. Temporal transcription factors determine circuit membership by permanently altering motor neuron-to-muscle synaptic partnerships. Elife. 2020 05 11; 9. View in: PubMed

  6. Meng JL, Marshall ZD, Lobb-Rabe M, Heckscher ES. How prolonged expression of Hunchback, a temporal transcription factor, re-wires locomotor circuits. Elife. 2019 09 10; 8. View in: PubMed

  7. He L, Gulyanon S, Mihovilovic Skanata M, Karagyozov D, Heckscher ES, Krieg M, Tsechpenakis G, Gershow M, Tracey WD. Direction Selectivity in Drosophila Proprioceptors Requires the Mechanosensory Channel Tmc. Curr Biol. 2019 03 18; 29(6):945-956.e3. View in: PubMed

  8. Wreden CC, Meng JL, Feng W, Chi W, Marshall ZD, Heckscher ES. Temporal Cohorts of Lineage-Related Neurons Perform Analogous Functions in Distinct Sensorimotor Circuits. Curr Biol. 2017 May 22; 27(10):1521-1528.e4. View in: PubMed

  9. Sun X, Heckscher ES. Using Linear Agarose Channels to Study Drosophila Larval Crawling Behavior. J Vis Exp. 2016 11 26; (117). View in: PubMed

  10. Heckscher ES, Zarin AA, Faumont S, Clark MQ, Manning L, Fushiki A, Schneider-Mizell CM, Fetter RD, Truman JW, Zwart MF, Landgraf M, Cardona A, Lockery SR, Doe CQ. Even-Skipped(+) Interneurons Are Core Components of a Sensorimotor Circuit that Maintains Left-Right Symmetric Muscle Contraction Amplitude. Neuron. 2015 Oct 21; 88(2):314-29. View in: PubMed

  11. Heckscher ES, Long F, Layden MJ, Chuang CH, Manning L, Richart J, Pearson JC, Crews ST, Peng H, Myers E, Doe CQ. Atlas-builder software and the eNeuro atlas: resources for developmental biology and neuroscience. Development. 2014 Jun; 141(12):2524-32. View in: PubMed