Office: 816 Petit Science Center
Phone: (404) 413-5398
Ph.D. Cornell University 1989
Postdoctoral Training: Brandeis University
Joint appointment: Department of Biology
Director of the Center for Neuromics
President of the International Society for Neuroethology
Co-director of the Neural Systems & Behavior Course at MBL
Associate Editor of The Journal of Neurophysiology
We are interested in how neural circuits produce behavior. We use the numerically simple circuits of molluscs as our experimental preparation. Our primary research species is the nudibranch mollusc, Tritonia diomedea, which produces an escape swimming response to contact to with a predator. A neuron that is a component of the central pattern generator (CPG) circuit for swimming in Tritonia contains the biogenic amine, serotonin, which it uses for both neurotransmission and neuromodulation. We are currently using physiological, calcium imaging, and computational approaches to examine how this neuron provides flexibility to the pattern generating circuit. In particular, we are looking at state- and timing dependent neuromodulatory actions. We hve recently discovered tht te swimming Tritonia can recover after neuronal injury through a reorganizaton of te neural circuitry.
Another major focus of the lab is comparative study of neuronal circuits. We have identified homologous neurons in different molluscan species that seem to serve different functions. We are comparing the neurophysiological properties of these neurons to better understand how species-specific behaviors might have evolved. We have recently begun to use gene expression to identify neurons. This may allow us to find additional homologous neurons. We have found that species that produce similiar behaviors can use different neural mechanisms. These results can help us formulate general theories about how neural circuits evolved to produce behavior.
Finally, we are building a web-based tool called NeuronBank for cataloging information about identified neurons and their connections. This neuroinformatic approach will allow users to publish and search for information about neurons and synapses.
Research in our lab is funded by grants from NIH,NSF, and the Brains & Behavior program.