Graduate Training in Neuroscience
University of Washington
Member, Basic Sciences and Human Biology, FHCRC and Affiliate Associate Professor, Biology, University of WA
What are the genetic changes that underlie differences in behavior? How do these genetic changes influence the neural circuitry underlying behavior? How has the genetic and neural circuitry that underlies complex behaviors evolved? To address these questions, my laboratory is using the threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a model genetic system. Stickleback behaviors have been incredibly well studied, both in the field and in the laboratory. Furthermore, there is a great deal of morphological and behavioral diversity in freshwater populations of sticklebacks that have evolved within the last 10,000 years. This provides us with a large source of natural behavioral variants that will allow us to identify genes that directly affect behavior without pleiotropic effects that would be incompatible with life in the wild. A major goal of my research is to use the genetic and genomic tools that we have developed for sticklebacks to dissect the genetic components of behaviors. We are currently focusing on differences in schooling behavior among stickleback populations. In addition to providing a powerful model for the genetic analysis of natural variants in behavior, sticklebacks are also amenable to anatomical and physiological approaches to characterize the functional neuronal circuits that underlie these behaviors. The long-term goal of my work is to begin to understand the neural and physiological connections between the genes we identify from our genetic studies and the behaviors that we observe in the wild.