MSc studente Hanneke Suijkerbuijk awarded with the Uyttenboogaart-Eliasen Master thesis award

Published on
December 16, 2016

Friday December 16,
Hanneke Suijkerbuijk will receive the Uyttenboogaart-Eliasen Master thesis
award for the best MSc thesis in Entomology in the Netherlands. Her thesis ‘Exploration
of the Spodoptera exigua larval
brain. Mapping of neuropils and the serotonergic nervous system’ was supervised
by Dr. Vera Ros of the Laboratory of Virology and Dr. Hans Smid of the
Laboratory of Entomology at Wageningen University & Research.

The award ceremony
will take place during the yearly Entomology Day of the Netherlands
Entomological Society (NEV). Hanneke’s MSc thesis is part of a research project
on behavioural changes induced by parasites in their host. An interesting
example of such parasitic manipulation is found for caterpillars infected with
viruses – infected caterpillars become hyperactive and climb to the top of
plants, where they die (known as ‘tree-top disease’). We hypothesize that the
viruses manipulate the central nervous system of the caterpillars. To get more
insight into this manipulation, Hanneke has visualized the brains of the
caterpillar Spodoptera exigua (the
beet armyworm) using different microscope techniques, and she constructed a 3D
model of these brains. In addition, she studied the serotonergic neurons, which
are possibly involved in the behavioural manipulation. This research area is
still unexplored (the structure of larval brains have so far been described for
one other caterpillar species, for the pupal stage only), which makes Hanneke’s
work unique – for research on parasitic manipulation as well as for entomology
in general.