President's Showcase

Melissa Sencer

Oral Presentation, 6:35 - 6:50 PM, Ballroom C
Exploring the Uncharted Brain: Single Cell Analysis of Circuit Deficits in Fragile X Syndrome
Supervising Professor: Dr. Yuan Wang
Melisa Sencer is a Cell and Molecular Neuroscience undergraduate who aspires to attend medical school post-graduation. With a diverse background in healthcare spanning several years, her passion for the medical field has seamlessly merged with an exploration of biomedical research. She has worked on several scientific research projects at FSU, including functional characterization of tuberculosis membrane proteins. Her current research endeavors thrive within the Wang Lab at FSU's College of Medicine, where she diligently works on her Honors Thesis in Neuroscience. Beyond academics, her commitment radiates through community leadership roles —a certified medical assistant at FSU's medical clinic, a devoted volunteer at Big Bend Hospice, and Treasurer of FSU’s Turkish Student Association. Her journey, from academia, scientific research, healthcare and leadership, aims to build an inspiring story of purposeful achievements with a commitment to personal growth and excellence.


Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a leading inherited psychiatric disorder that is characterized by a spectrum of social difficulties and cognitive deficits. As an underlying mechanism, sensory processing problems are seen in most individuals with FXS. To understand how sensory dysfunction arises and how to correct it, we must determine how neuron-neuron communication of the involved circuits are altered. My work focus on a brainstem circuit that computes cues for sound localization, an auditory ability that is essential for speech recognition and language communication. This ability is provided by an intricate network of cell groups with the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body or MNTB as a central player. Due to the complicity of MNTB connectivity with other circuit players, elaborating the circuit organization at the single neuron level is essential. To achieve this goal, I employ intracellular dye-filling techniques to compare the connectivity of individual MNTB neurons between wild-type and a disease (FXS) model of mice. The experimental approach involves 3-dimentional reconstruction of neuronal connectivity of dye-filled MNTB cells and biochemical determination of the connectivity using immunocytochemistry. My data so far has identified a previously unknown projection to MNTB in wild-type mice, validating the high sensitivity of the approach. Through this investigation, valuable insights into the connection and organization of the two master regulatory cell groups of the auditory system can be explored. The ultimate goal is to determine how the MNTB-centered circuit is altered in FXS and how such alterations influence auditory processing and characterized symptoms in FXS.

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