The main focus of my research is to gain a mechanistic understanding of how the nervous system regulates behavior. Addressing this question can be difficult largely due to the complexity of vertebrate nervous systems. Therefore, we have chosen to study this problem in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans given its relatively simple nervous system. In addition, its amenability to genetic manipulation and imaging techniques, as well as a large range of quantifiable behaviors make C. elegans an ideal tool to link genes, neural circuits and behavior. We are specifically interested in how ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) modify neural circuit activity. To achieve this goal, I have developed a repertoire of advanced electrophysiological techniques in the worm to characterize iGluRs and their associated auxiliary proteins. Ultimately, I would like to determine how iGluRs localized to specific synapses contribute to electrical activity of a cell and how this activity regulates learning and memory.
Montana State University
Psychology and Biology