Areas of Focus:
Neuronal Basis of Behavior
My research is part of a broad effort within the community of neuroethologists to discover the general principles underlying how animal behaviors are controlled by the central nervous system. This comparative effort involves diverse species, from cnidarians to mammals, with approaches ranging from behavioral observations to mathematical modeling. Analysis of swimming behavior in the medicinal leech has served as a model system for addressing questions on the neuronal substrates of behavior since the beginning of the 19th century. In my laboratory, we are currently investigating the following aspects of the neuronal control of leech swimming: the role of glutamate and nonNMDA receptors in swim initiation and maintenance; cloning and biophysical characterization of nonNMDA receptors in leech nervous system; and assessing whether acetylcholine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the leech swim central pattern generator.