Insect thermal tolerance: From neural mechanisms to human health insights

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Mads Kuhlmann Andersen


Postdoctoral Fellow


Carleton University


DKK 1,269,012




Reintegration Fellowships


When exposed to extreme temperatures, insects enter a state of paralysis caused by a catastrophic loss of ion balance within their central nervous system. However, not all species are impacted equally. This project seeks to identify key neural mechanisms and adaptations that shape variation in insect thermal tolerance, specifically the ability to resist or avoid loss of central nervous function.


The event triggering the loss of central nervous function, known as spreading depolarization, is tightly linked with insect thermal tolerance, and human medical conditions such as migraines. This project will establish an insect model system to identify the cellular processes that cause spreading depolarization, and how some species are adapted to withstand it, to ultimately improve human health.


Electrophysiological, biochemical, molecular, and genetic techniques will be used to compare insect nervous function, focusing on the changes to key regulators that trigger spreading depolarization and variation in the temperature at which it occurs. The adaptations uncovered in insects able to withstand spreading depolarization are then applied to human neurobiology using evolutionary analyses.

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