Ruth Fabian-Fine Director of the Neuroscience Program, Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience

Ruth Fabian-Fine


M.Sc., Zoology/Neurobiology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt
Ph.D., Zoology/Neurobiology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt


Areas of Expertise:
Sensory Systems
Electron Microscopy
Three Dimensional Reconstructions


Courses I Teach:
Developmental Biology Lecture
Developmental Biology Lab
Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience Lecture
Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience Lab
Senior Seminar – The effects of venoms and toxins on the human body
Biological Communications

Scientific Imaging Suite

Current Research

Current research:

Over the last decades the phenomenon of co-transmission of two or more neurotransmitters from individual neurons has been firmly established. Our knowledge regarding mechanisms and purpose of co-release, however is only in its infancy. There is strong evidence, that in some cases co-transmission pattern of counteracting transmitters is activity dependent and that this plastic response pattern provides a crucially important protective mechanism against the consequences of overexcitation and excitotoxicity. To contribute to a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of co-transmission we address the following questions in an invertebrate model system, the Central American wandering spider Cupiennius salei: (a) Which transmitters a co-released? (2) Which neuron populations co-release transmitters? (3) Does activity alter the neurochemical composition within these neurons? (4) Does activation alter electrophysiological response patterns and synaptic connectivity in central and/or peripheral pathways? In recent studies we have demonstrated that co-transmission is commonly observed in peripheral and central spider neurons. Currently we investigate the different combinations of transmitters that are co-released from individual neurons and test if the pattern of transmitter expression is activity dependent. Our hypothesis is that co-releasing neurons form a plastic network. We propose that neurons that constitute this plastic network regulate their transmitter content in an activity dependent manner and exert modulatory input on the main excitatory and inhibitory (static) pathways.

Awards & Recognition

Vermont Genetics Network Pilot Award 2019/2020
Vermont Genetics Network Small Project Award 2018/2019
Vermont Genetics Network Pilot Award, 2017/18
Vermont Genetics Network Small Project Award 2018
Vermont Genetics Network Pilot Award, 2016/17
George I. Alden Trust, awarded to Saint Michael’s College, 2016
Saint Michael’s College Summer Research Award, 2016
Vermont Genetics Network Small Project Award, 2015
Killiam Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, 2001


Dr. Ruth Fabian-Fine spoke with the Defender, the Saint Michael’s College newspaper, on examining sensory overload, or over stimulation of sensory systems and how it affects the central nervous system and the behavior of Central American Hunting Spiders.

Click here to watch the interview: Examining the sensory systems in spiders

Read the profile of Dr. Fabian-Fine in the Winter 2016 edition of the Saint Michael’s College Magazine.




Selected peer-reviewed articles:

Senior, E. E., Poulin, H. E., Dobecki, M. G., Anair, B. M., & Fabian-Fine, R. (2020). Co-expression of the neuropeptide proctolin and glutamate in the central nervous system, along mechanosensory neurons and leg muscle in Cupiennius salei. Cell and tissue research, 1-12.

Tarr EA, Fidler BM, Anderson CM, Jager AK, Gallagher NM, Carroll KP Fabian-Fine R (2018) Distribution of FMRFamide-related peptides and co-localization with glutamate in Cupiennius salei, an invertebrate model system Cell Tissue Res  doi: 10.1007/s00441-018-2949-0

Fabian-Fine R, Anderson C, Roush M, Johnson JAG, Liu H, French AS and Torkkeli P. Distribution of Cholinergic Neurons and their Co-localization with FMRFamide in Central and Peripheral Neurons of the Spider Cupiennius salei. Cell Tissue Res. 2017 Jul 7. doi: 10.1007/s00441-017-2652-6

Fabian-Fine R, Meisner S, Torkkeli PH, Meinertzhagen IA. Co-localization of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid and Glutamate in Neurons of the Spider Central Nervous System.
Fabian-Fine R, Meisner S, Torkkeli PH, Meinertzhagen IA. Cell Tissue Res. 2015 Dec;362(3):461-79

Grange J, Boyer V, Fabian-Fine R, Fredj NB, Sadoul R, Goldberg Y. Somatodendritic localization and mRNA association of the splicing regulatory protein Sam68 in the hippocampus and cortex. J Neurosci Res. 2004 Mar 1;75(5):654-66.

Ruiz A, Walker MC, Fabian-Fine R, Kullmann DM. Endogenous zinc inhibits GABA(A) receptors in a hippocampal pathway. J Neurophysiol. 2004 Feb;91(2):1091-6.

Chandler KE, Princivalle AP, Fabian-Fine R, Bowery NG, Kullmann DM, Walker MC.
Plasticity of GABA(B) receptor-mediated heterosynaptic interactions at mossy fibers after status epilepticus. J Neurosci. 2003 Dec 10;23(36):11382-91.

Fabian-Fine R, Verstreken P, Hiesinger PR, Horne JA, Kostyleva R, Zhou Y, Bellen HJ, Meinertzhagen IA. Endophilin promotes a late step in endocytosis at glial invaginations in Drosophila photoreceptor terminals. J Neurosci. 2003 Nov 19;23(33):10732-44.

Ruiz A, Fabian-Fine R, Scott R, Walker MC, Rusakov DA, Kullmann DM. GABAA receptors at hippocampal mossy fibers. Neuron. 2003 Sep 11;39(6):961-73.

Pennetta G, Hiesinger PR, Fabian-Fine R, Meinertzhagen IA, Bellen HJ. Drosophila VAP-33A directs bouton formation at neuromuscular junctions in a dosage-dependent manner. Neuron. 2002 Jul 18;35(2):291-306.

Fabian-Fine R, Seyfarth E-A, Meinertzhagen IA.  (2002) Peripheral synaptic contacts as sensory neurons in arachnids and crustaceans: Morphological and immunocytochemical characteristics. Microscopy Research and Technique 58:283-298.

Fabian-Fine R, Skehel P, Errington ML, Davies HA, Sher E, Stewart MG, Fine A (2001) Ultrastructural distribution of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit
7 in rat hippocampus. J Neurosci 21: 7993-8003.

Recent News

Adam Weaver and Ruth Fabian-Fine of the biology/neuroscience faculty alongside eight of their well-prepared student researchers presented a program this past fall semester 2022 in the  McCarthy Recital Hall, first in an exciting new “Solutions for Social Impact” series at the College, about “Shedding Light on Neurodegenerative Diseases for non-scientists.”
(posted February 2023)

Ruth Fabian-Fine of the biology/neuroscience faculty was awarded the major faculty award for scholarship & artistic achievement during the Academic Convocation in September. Also, Ruth with her colleague Adam Weaver was co-author along with 26 Saint Michel’s student researchers of a publisher paper for a respected science journal, the Journal of Comparative Neurology, on the topic of neurodegeneration. The professors and some of the students also presented the same findings during one of the Fall Semester Seminars for Social Impact in McCarthy Recital Hall.
(posted February 2023)

Ruth Fabian-Fine of the biology faculty along with biology colleague Declan McCabe started assigning podcasts in their Biological Communications courses in 2020. A couple of Ruth’s students, Cecelia Schmelzle ’23 and Cailey Comiskey ’23,  really ran with it, and in their second “season” (which is to say, semester), they launched weekly interviews with a range of STEM (an acronym standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors and others with interests in STEM. Declan says the podcast is on Spotify for subscriptions. Both students earn internship credit for the podcast in their senior year and hope to recruit successors to keep it going.
(posted February 2022)

Ruth Fabian-Fine of the biology/neuroscience faculty and Anne Crowley, the College’s instructional technologist, this spring assures that Saint Michael’s students would have a chance to be part of a sort of Academic Symposium, as has been traditional in recent years, despite COVID —  though in a virtual world of live Zoom or pre-recorded presentations. Also, the Saint Michael’s College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) announced in April that Ruth has earned its 2021 Dr. Dave Landers Faculty Mentor Award thanks to her support and dedication to the College’s student-athletes, placing her in considered for the Northeast-10 Conference Dr. Dave Landers Faculty Mentor Award.
(posted July 2021)

Ruth Fabian-Fine, professor of biology, with her research students, recently had another paper accepted for publication in a Springer Publishing Group Journal called Cell and Tissue Research. Their paper was titled “Distribution of the neuroactive peptide proctolin and co-localization with glutamate in the nervous system of Cupiennius salei,” and the student-researcher co-authors with Ruth were Elizabeth Senior, Hailee Poulin, Madison Dobecki and Bradley Anair.
(posted June 2020)

Ruth Fabian-Fine, assistant professor of biology and neuroscience, Adam Weaver, associate professor of biology and neuroscience, and Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo, associate professor of psychology and director of the Neuroscience Program,  joined Saint Michael’s neuroscience and biology majors in presenting a variety of neuroscience topics at Burlington High School this past Saturday, October 20, for students from Burlington, South Burlington, Rice, Milton and Essex High Schools.
(posted January 2019)

Ruth Fabian-Fine assistant professor of biology and neuroscience, and Will Mentor, associate professor of fine arts/art, co-curated an exhibition in the McCarthy Arts Center Gallery titled “Enhanced Vision: Artful Science from September 7 through October 13. This exhibition featured the often inaccessible aesthetic beauty of the natural world revealed through scientific research. It covers a broad spectrum from nature photography to the visualization of single molecules using modern research technology.
(Posted December 2017)

Ruth Fabian Fine, assistant professor of biology and neuroscience, recently was the recipient of a $25,000 Vermont Genetics Network (VGN) Pilot grant award; also, in recent months she helped set up and coordinate, with colleague Christina Chant, a new Scientific Imaging Facility on campus; Ruth also saw publication of a peer-reviewed paper with undergraduate student authors in the journal Cell and Tissue Research, titled “The Distribution of Cholinergic Neurons, and their Co-localization with FMRFamide in Central and Peripheral Neurons of the Spider Cupiennius salei (Ruth Fabian-Fine, Carly M. Anderson, Molly A. Roush, Jessica A.G. Johnson, Hongxia Liu, Andrew S. French and Päivi H. Torkkeli); she developed an outreach program in collaboration with Joan Wagner (director of community-engaged learning/coordinator of experiential learning), Rice High School and her Senior Seminar students to present for high school students on the cellular actions of venoms and toxins on the human body. During summer 2017 she is conducting summer research with five undergraduate students on campus.
(Posted 2017)