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Suresh Jesuthasan

Suresh Jesuthasan-01 (Custom).jpg

Associate Professor Suresh Jesuthasan 
Associate Professor of Behavioural Neurosciences
Principal Investigator, Brain States and Behaviour Laboratory​

  • Dr. Ruey-Kuang Cheng, PhD, Research Fellow
  • Dr. Joanne Chia, PhD, Research Fellow
  • Mahathi Ramaswamy, Graduate Student
  • Adriana Basnakova, Graduate Student
  • Kathleen Cheow Wen Bei, Research Assistant
  • Suryadi, Research Assistant​ 


Associate Professor Jesuthasan is an Associate Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience in Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University. He holds joint appointments at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore, and the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. He obtained an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, and a DPhil in Developmental Biology under the guidance of Julian Lewis at Oxford University. He has worked  at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany, in the laboratory of Friedrich Bonhoeffer.

Assoc Prof Jesuthasan is internationally recognised for his contributions to the area of early embryonic development, where he provided fundamental insights into symmetry breaking and cell division in the early zebrafish embryo. He is also known for his work on fear triggered by an alarm pheromone in fish, and on how brain states are regulated by the habenula.  

esearch Focus

Brain State and Behavior
An animal’s survival depends on its ability to react appropriately to environmental stimuli. The responses can be innate, but can also be modified by experience and internal state (e.g. hunger and time of day). The goal of the lab is to gain insight into how the vertebrate brain generates an optimal response. To do this,  A/Prof Jesuthasan  and his teamuse a combination of anatomy, high-resolution functional imaging, genetics, behavioral assays and modelling. Behavior is generated by neural circuits. Connectivity between circuit components is not fixed, but is dynamically regulated by neuromodulators. The major question they are interested in, thus, is how neuromodulator release is controlled based on sensory stimuli and internal states.

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The Alarm Response

A starting point for experiments is the alarm response. In the 1930’s Karl von Frisch noticed that injury to a European minnow caused a fright reaction in other members of the fish school. He demonstrated that the skin contains substances, termed Schreckstoff, which act via the olfactory system to trigger a state of fear. The fish change their swimming behaviour dramatically - either darting or freezing - in response to this alarm pheromone. Subsequent experiments by other scientists established that many freshwater fish species have this response. All the classical hallmarks of fear, including physiological changes such as increase in blood cortisol levels, can be triggered by Schreckstoff.  Current experiments are focused on understanding the biology underlying the alarm response, including the mechanism by which the alarm substance is generated and the neural circuits regulating the behaviour. 

The habenula

The habenula is an evolutionarily conserved structure that regulates neuromodulator release. It is well placed to control functional connectivity in response to a wide range of variables, as it receives input from all sensory systems, including the olfactory and visual systems, and receives reward information from the basal ganglia. Information from the circadian clock is also channelled to the habenula. The lab uses a combination of imaging and manipulation to investigate how information is processed in the habenula to enable rapid selection of optimal behaviour. 

Selected Publications 

Mohamed GA, Cheng RK, ... Jesuthasan S. (2017). Optical inhibition of larval zebrafish behaviour with anionchannelrhodopsins.​ BMC Biology. 15:103.

Cheng RK, Krishnan S, ... Jesuthasan S. (2017). Characterizationof a thalamic nucleus mediating habenula responses to changes in ambientillumination. BMC Biology. 15(1):104. 

Lin Q, & Jesuthasan S. (2017). Masking of a circadian behavior in larval zebrafish involves thethalamo-habenula pathway. Scientific Reports. 7(1):4104.

Krishnan S, Mathuru AS, ... Jesuthasan S. (2014). The right dorsal habenula limits attraction to an odor in zebrafish. Current Biology. 24(11):1167-75.

Mathuru A, Kibat C, ... Jesuthasan S. (2012). Chondroitin fragments are odorants that trigger fear behavior in fish. Current Biology. 22(6):538-44.

Lee A, Mathuru A, ... Jesuthasan S. (2010). The habenula prevents helpless behavior in larval zebrafish. Current Biology. 20(24):2211-6.

D’Souza J, Hendricks M, ... Jesuthasan S. (2005). Formation of the retinotectal projection requires Esrom, an ortholog of PAM (protein associated with Myc). Development. 132:247-56.

Jesuthasan S, & Strähle U (1997). Dynamic microtubules and specification of the zebrafish embryonic axis. Current Biology. 7(1):31-42.

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