- Biology Assistant Professor
Our research focus is two-tiered. On one level we aim to understand how the nervous system develops and organizes itself to produce adaptive behavior.Toward this end, we use zebrafish as a model system to investigate the cellular interactions between two brain circuits: the cerebellum, which is involved in regulating rhythmic swimming and the startle escape circuit, which controls the animals' ability to escape from predators. Secondly, we investigate the effects of neurodegenerative diseases on nervous system function and behavior paying particular attention to cerebellar degeneration and how swimming is hindered. We are hopeful that studying the underlying effects of one neurodegenerative disease will shed light on the underlying causes of other neurological diseases. We utilize genetically encoded calcium imaging, electrophysiological, cellular and behavioral techniques to address these aims.
Another exciting line of research we are interested in pursuing is to investigate the effects of how social interactions and the ensuing social hierarchies that emerge influence brain function. We are interested with addressing the question of how animals of different social standing adapt their behavior to fit their social rank, and how their behavior is reflected in changes in brain function. We are utilizing zebrafish to address how particular brain regions are modified functionally during social interactions. Our aim is to improve our understanding of how social aggression/submission morph brain function.