Head of Laboratory

Ethan Scott


Otto Hirschfeld Building, Room 612


  • Dr Haipeng Zhu
  • Dr Rebecca Dunning


  • Ms Morghan Lucas
  • Ms Imogen Bellamy
  • Mr Eric Staykov
  • Ms Kerri Gillespie
  • Mr Andrew Thompson
  • Ms Lucy Heap


Humans and other animals are capable of an astonishing range of coordinated body movements. Even a simple movement, such as picking up an object, involves dozens of muscles and multiple sensory modalities. Without the smooth integration of muscle control across our bodies, such movements would be impossible. We similarly rely on motor learning and are able, through repetition, to combine sets of movements into coherent complex motions, and to correct motor programs that are failing to meet their targets. The cerebellum is a brain region at the heart of this motor control. Our lab is interested in the mechanisms by which the cerebellum orchestrates motor coordination and drives motor learning.

We address these questions in the zebrafish model system because of the advantages that it offers in terms of genetics, behaviour, and microscopy. Our approach involves using transgenics to express optogenetic tools in targeted parts of the cerebellum, and to observe or manipulate activity in these circuits while zebrafish larvae are behaving. This allows us to draw links between the cell types and circuits in the cerebellum, and the behaviours that they are necessary or sufficient for generating.

From a broad perspective, this work is part of a burgeoning field of Circuits Neuroscience. Over the coming decades, neuroscientists will make the leap from understanding the parts of the brain that generate behaviours to demonstrating, in concrete terms, the cellular circuits that underlie behaviour. Our group hopes to contribute to this effort, specifically in describing how cerebellar circuits allow for coordinated movement and the acquisition of new motor skills.

Recent publications


  1. Hugh D. Simpson, Elizabeth M. Kita, Ethan K. Scott, and Geoffrey J. Goodhill (2012). A quantitative analysis of branching, growth cone turning and directed growth in zebraï¬sh retinotectal axon guidance. Journal of Comparative Neurology, in press.
  2. Isabel Formella, Ethan K. Scott, Tom H.J. Burne, Lauren R. Harms, Ashley Liu, Karly M. Turner, Xiaoying Cui, and Darryl W. Eyles (2012). Transient Knockdown of Tyrosine Hydroxylase during Development Has Persistent Effects on Behaviour in Adult Zebrafish (Danio rerio). PLoS One. 7 (8).
  3. Joshua Simmich, Eric Staykov, and Ethan K. Scott (2012). Zebrafish as an appealing model system for optogenetics. Progress in Brain Research. 196: 145-162.
  4. Phil McClenahan, Michael Troup, and Ethan K. Scott (2012). Fin-tail Coordination During Escape and Predatory Behavior in Larval Zebrafish. PLoS One. 7(2).


  1. Thomas Burne, Ethan K. Scott, Bruno van Swinderen, Massimo Hilliard, Judith Reinhard, Charles Claudianos, Darryl Eyles, and John McGrath (2011). Big ideas for small brains: what can psychiatry learn from worms, flies, bees and fish? Molecular Psychiatry. 16: 7-16.


  1. Filippo Del Bene, Claire Wyart, Estuardo Robles, Amanda Tran, Loren Looger, Ethan K, Scott, Ehud Y. Isacoff, and Herwig Baier (2010). Filtering of visual information in the tectum by an identified neural circuit. Science. 330: 669-673.
  2. Linda Nevin, Estuardo Robles, Herwig Baier, and Ethan K. Scott (2010). Focusing on optic tectum circuitry through the lens of genetics. BMC Biology. 8: 126.
  3. Shuichi Kani, Young-Ki Bae, Takashi Shimizu, Koji Tanabe, Chie Satoh, Mike Parsons, Ethan K. Scott, Shin-ichi Higashijima and Masahiko Hibi (2010). Proneural gene-linked neurogenesis in zebrafish cerebellum. Developmental Biology. 343 (1-2): 1-17.


  1. Claire Wyart, Filippo Del Bene, Erica Warp, Ethan K. Scott, Dirk Trauner, Herwig Baier and Ehud Isacoff (2009). Optogenetic dissection of a behavioural module in the vertebrate spinal cord. Nature. 461: 407-410.
  2. Herwig Baier and Ethan K. Scott (2009). Optics and genetics cross paths in the zebrafish nervous system. Current Opinions in Neurobiology. 19(5): 553-560.
  3. Ethan K. Scott and Herwig Baier (2009). The cellular architecture of the larval zebrafish tectum, as revealed by Gal4 enhancer trap lines. Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 3(13).
  4. Ethan K. Scott (2009). The Gal4/UAS toolbox in zebrafish: New approaches for defining behavioral circuits. Journal of Neurochemistry. 110(2): 441-456.
  5. Lisette A. Maddison, Jainjun Lu, Tristan Victoroff, Ethan K. Scott, Herwig Baier, and Wenbiao Chen. (2009). A gain-of-function screen in zebrafish identifies a guanylate cyclase with a role in neuronal degeneration. Molecular Genetics and Genomics. 281(5): 551-563.


  1. Stephanie Szobota, Pau Gorostiza, Filippo Del Bene, Claire Wyart, Doris L. Fortin, Kate Kolstad, Orapim Tulyathan, Matthew Volgraf, Rika Numano, Holly Aaron, Ethan K. Scott, Richard Kramer, John Flannery, Herwig Baier, Dirk Trauner and Ehud Isacoff (2007). Remote control of neuronal activity with a light-gated glutamate receptor. Neuron. 54(4): 535-545.
  2. Ethan K. Scott, Lindsay Mason, Aristides B. Arrenberg, Limor Ziv, Nathan J. Gosse, Tong Xiao, Neil C. Chi, Kazuhide Asakawa, Koichi Kawakami, and Herwig Baier (2007). Targeting neural circuitry in zebrafish using GAL4 enhancer trapping. Nature Methods. 4(4): 323-326.

Student projects


1. Developing and testing behavioural assays for cerebellar function in motor control
2. Anatomical analysis of cerebellar connectivity in zebrafish
3. Exploring functional cerebellar connectivity using optogetetics


1. Modeling human cerebellar dysfunction and disease in zebrafish
2. Defining discrete cerebellar microcircuits necessary for motor coordination

Research support

2013-2015 National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant - CIB - Combining timelapse imaging and computational modelling to understand the mechanisms of axon guidance in the developing retinotectal system $424,000 AUD

2012-2015 Australian Research Council Future Fellowship - Neural Mechanisms of Motor Learning $715,000 AUD

2011-2013 Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant - Sole Chief Investigator (CI) - Cerebellar Control of Motor Coordination and Learning $300,000 AUD

2010 University of Queensland Major Equipment and Infrastructure Grant - CIA - Zebrafish Behavioural Suite $205,000 AUD

2010 University of Queensland Major Equipment and Infrastructure Grant - CIF - Zebrafish Housing Facility $309,000 AUD

2010 University of Queensland Major Equipment and Infrastructure Grant - CII - Scanscope system for virtual microscopy $280,000 AUD

2009 University of Queensland Early Career Researcher Award $26,000 AUD

2008-2010 National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, Young Investigator Award $60,000 USD

2007-2012 National Health and Medical Research Council Enabling Grant - CIB and co-director - Australian Zebrafish Phenomics Facility $1,500,000 AUD

2003-2006 National Institutes of Health, NRSA Postdoctoral Research Fellowship $150,000 USD


Scott Lab Website