My research is integrative and combines behavioral, anatomical and physiological approaches to discover neural mechanisms underlying adaptive behavior. My interests include synaptic mechanisms of sound analysis in insects, especially the role of active and passive dendritic processing in identified neurons; chemical defenses in gastropod mollusks and the effect of natural defenses on potential predators; and the development of behavior and learning in the marine snail Aplysia and the control of swimming in jellyfish.
Recently I have examined the neural basis of frequency discrimination and sound source localization in insects, with an emphasis on mechanisms of sensory integration. In addition, we have been looking at the functional significance of ultrasound in the cricket’s rivalry and courtship songs. Other work involves functional studies of the chemical defensive behavior of Aplysia in response to predation, as well as developmental studies of neurotransmitter systems involved in different forms of learning in Aplysia.
I study behavior at the organismal level and in reduced and isolated physiological preparations. Intracellular recordings from identified neurons and extracellular recordings from nerve roots are used to identify physiological analogs of the behavior. Anatomical techniques, including pathway tracing, intracellular dye injection and biochemical characterization (immunohistochemical staining resolved at the light- and electron microscopic levels), allow the identification of functional groups of neurons involved in well defined behaviors.