Project Overview

The making of the brain during metamorphosis

Faculty Sponsor

Anzela Niraula (


Psychological and Brain Sciences


One of the most captivating events in nature is metamorphosis – a biological phenomenon marked by the transformation of a whole organism (observed in moths, frogs, and ants, among others). During the metamorphosis of a tadpole, the body undergoes tremendous changes visible to the naked eye, such as limb generation, tail resorption, intestinal remodeling, lung development, etc. Tadpoles are endless eaters that do not possess a “brake” in their brain circuit to terminate feeding. The brain circuits involved in appetite regulation develop during metamorphosis. In sharp contrast with the aquatic tadpole, the adult frog is able to live on land and feed on a mainly carnivorous diet. In this project, students will examine the changes that take place in the hypothalamus of the tadpole brain during metamorphosis. In particular, students will examine the role of the microglia and other immune cells in sculping brain circuits during metamorphosis. Microglia are responsible for remodeling brain circuits and regulating neuronal functions in early life, and in conditions such as, Alzheimer’s Disease and traumatic brain injury. Understanding how microglia (and other immune cells) remodel the brain during an event like metamorphosis may lend insight into how brain functions are altered in disease conditions.

Student Qualifications

A desire to learn and strong work ethic needed. No prior qualification required on the subject matter.

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 10/03/2023 and close on 02/28/2024

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (