Jasper Elan Hunt
- Clarendon Scholar
- Wellcome Trust PhD Student
- Co-President, Oxford University Cortex Club
- MSc with Merit, Neuroscience, University of Oxford, 2020
- BSc with Honors, Psychology and Philosophy, University of Wyoming, 2019
My Masters research, in the labs of Adam Packer and Ana Domingos, investigated axonal imaging and quantification techniques. In the Packer lab, my project focused on imaging claustral axons using multi-photon microscopy in vivo. In the Domingos lab, my project focused on quantifying characteristics of sympathetic axons in cleared white adipose tissue.
My Bachelors research, in the lab of Kara Pratt, answered questions about the neural architecture that enables larval amphibians to have colour vision and execute innate, adaptive, colour-driven behaviours from the first days of life. This work resulted in the following publication:
Hunt, J. E., Bruno, J. R., & Pratt, K. G. (2020). An Innate Color Preference Displayed by Xenopus Tadpoles Is Persistent and Requires the Tegmentum. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 14. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00071
The way a brain is organised stems from a combination of evolutionary and environmental influences. I aim to understand how these factors have shaped how different primate brains are organised. Specifically, I am interested in how visual experience and evolutionary adaptations have shaped the organisation of the occipital (visual) lobe.
To study occipital lobe organisation, I will reconstruct white matter tracts from MRI scans of primate brains. I will then use computational approaches to compare these tracts, finding which tracts differ between species. Using our knowledge of phylogenetic relationships and different animals’ lifestyles, I can test hypotheses about which tracts diverged at different points in evolutionary history, and about which adaptations are unique to different ecological niches. Afterwards, I will explore how ecological specialisations affect connectivity on a cellular level, in finer-grained detail than MRI can offer, by staining brain slices for axons and their myelin and analysing the innervation patterns of specific white matter tracts.
This work will yield insights into the evolution of the primate visual system and illuminate how it evolved to subserve uniquely human functions like reading. This work will additionally help us understand principles of brain diversity, with implications for evolutionary biology and translational neuroscience.