Zeb Kurth-Nelson

Ph.D. 2009

Thesis Title:

Mechanisms and Functional Consequences of Glial Signaling in the Retina

Current Position:

Research Scientist, DeepMind Technologies, London, U.K.

Undergraduate Institution and Major/Degree:

Iowa State University, BS, Computer Science, 2003

Major Advisor(s):

Eric Newman, Ph.D.

Research Description:

When glial cells are stimulated artificially, they will often initiate a wave of intracellular Ca2+ elevation that spreads to neighboring glia. These calcium waves can modulate synaptic transmission and blood vessel diameter.

We have discovered that glial calcium waves occur spontaneously in the retina, both ex vivo and in vivo. They propagate from cell to cell through ATP release, and they cause constrictions in blood vessels. Spontaneous waves occur more frequently in older animals.

The existence of spontaneous waves validates glial calcium waves as a physiological form of long-range glial communication, and it also implies that glia can be "initiators" of signaling in the brain.

Lab Rotations:

  • Eric Newman
  • David Redish
  • Mark Thomas

Courses Taken Beyond the Core Courses:

  • EEB 8990 - Computational Analysis of Biological Networks
  • NSC 5201 - Computational Neuroscience
  • NSC 5202 - Theoretical Neuroscience
  • PHCL 5110 - Introduction to Pharmacology
  • PSY 8960 - Synaptic Plasticity in Addiction

Graduate Level Minor:

  • Supporting Program

Conferences Attended:

  • Society for Neuroscience - Fall 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008

Committee Members:

  • Bob Miller (chair)
  • Mark Thomas
  • Jan Dubinsky
  • Eric Newman (advisor)

Selected Publications:

  • Patzelt EH, Kurth-Nelson Z, Lim KO, MacDonald AW 3rd. Excessive state switching underlies reversal learning deficits in cocaine users. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014;134:211-217.
  • Kurth-Nelson Z, Redish AD. Don't let me do that! -- models of precommitment. FFront Neurosci. 2012 Oct 8;6:138.
  • Kurth-Nelson Z, Bickel WK, Redish AD. A theoretical account of cognitive effects in delay discounting. Eur J Neurosci. 2012;35(7):1052-1064.
  • van der Meer MA, Kurth-Nelson Z, Redish AD. Information processing in decision-making systems. TNeuroscientist. 2012;18(4):342-59.
  • Bickel WK, Christensen DR, Landes RD, Jackson L, Jones BA, Kurth-Nelson Z, Redish AD. Single and cross commodity among cocaine addicts: the commodity and its temporal location determine discounting rate. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011;217(2):177-87
  • Kurth-Nelson Z, Redish AD. A reinforcement learning model of precommitment in decision making. Front Behav Neurosci. 2010 Dec 14;4:184.
  • Srienc AI, Kurth-Nelson Z, Newman EA. Imaging retinal blood flow with laser speckle flowmetry. Front Neuroenergetics. 2010 Sep 15;2.
  • Kurth-Nelson Z, Redish AD. Temporal-difference reinforcement learning with distributed representations. PLoS One 2009;4:e7362.
  • Kurth-Nelson Z, Mishra A, Newman EA. Spontaneous intercellular calcium waves in retinal glia. J Neurosci. 2009;29(36):11339-46
  • Clark BD, Kurth-Nelson Z, Newman EA. Adenosine-evoked hyperpolarization of retinal ganglion cells is mediated by G-protein-coupled inwardly rectifying K+ and small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel activation. J Neurosci. 2009;29(36):11237-45.
  • Redish AD, Jensen S, Johnson A, Kurth-Nelson Z. Reconciling reinforcement learning models with behavioral extinction and renewal: implications for addiction, relapse, and problem gambling. Psychological Review 2007;114:784.

Awards and Honors:

  • NSF IGERT Fellowship, 2003-2005
  • NIH NPCS Fellowship, 2005

Professional Memberships:

  • Society for Neuroscienc

Home Town:

  • North Branch, Minnesota