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Neurobiology and Animal Physiology

Adult female Xenopus laevis

To produce a functioning animal, the activity of individual cells must be coordinated by neuronal and endocrine signaling. The research of members of this group focuses on the molecular mechanisms of synaptic and hormonal communication, on the signals used during development and regeneration to produce a functional nervous system, on the hormonal control of animal growth and on the way that networks of neurons process sensory signals and generate simple behaviors.

The most widely used animals as research subjects are zebrafish, Xenopus, Drosophila, and mice. The advantage of these model organisms is the ease with which they can be manipulated by genetic and molecular genetic approaches, while also being susceptible to experimental analysis in living animals using quantitative imaging, electrophysiological, biochemical and behavioral methods.

Among the topics currently under study are the synaptic basis of visual perception, the role of neuronal activity in regulating synapse formation, the structural basis of binding and responding to neurotransmitters, the identification of genes that are essential for performing simple motor behaviors, the role of stress hormones on brain and body growth, the role of binding proteins other than receptors in regulating hormonal signaling, and identification of the signals that regulate retinal stem cells and control retinal differentiation and photoreceptor patterning.