Office: 786 Petit Science Center
Phone: (404) 413-5346
Ph.D. Behavioral Neuroscience Tulane University 1979
Postdoctoral Training: Harvard Medical School and Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Director of The Center for Behavioral Neuroscience
Our laboratory investigates the behavioral functions of peptides and other neurochemical signals within the mammalian central nervous system. We are currently focused on understanding the action of neurotransmitters in the control of circadian rhythms and in the neural circuits that control social behavior.
The neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin are neurochemical signals involved in the control of social behavior in a wide range of species. Our research examines how these peptides are involved in controlling a number of different social behaviors including communicative behavior, aggression and reproductive behavior in Syrian hamsters. We have identified specific regions in the brain that are regulatory sites in vasopressin and oxytocin containing circuits and we are investigating how these neurons control different types of social behavior. We are also investigating how factors that change social behavior such as hormones and social experience alter the activity of vasopressin and oxytocin circuits and thereby alter the expression of social behaviors in the future.
Nearly all physiology and behavior exhibit 24-hour rhythms that are generated by one primary circadian clock in the brain. In mammals, a circadian clock has been localized within a small group of neurons called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Although a variety of neurochemical signals have been identified within the suprachiasmatic nucleus how these signals contribute to biological timekeeping is not well understood. We use a variety of techniques to explore the clock from the level of gene expression to the analysis of behaviors timed by the circadian clock. One approach that has proved particularly useful in understanding how the clock is synchronized with environmental time cues such as the day-night cycle is the microinjection of neurotransmitters directly into the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Using this approach we have been able to investigate the neurochemical signals responsible for keeping the clock synchronized with the environment.