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CABI Labs:


Jenifer Basil

Jennifer studies Animal learning and memory, evolution of brain and behavioral complexity, sensory ecology, and neural basis of behavior -- using primarily invertebrate models.

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Chris Braun

Chris studies sensory function in aquatic animals by measuring behaviorally relevant psychophysical and physiological indices of stimulus detection. The questions we ask can all be paraphrased: what information does this sense provide the nervous system? Or in other words, what do animals know about their world, and how do they know it? Our approach is to compare measures of sensory function (detection, discrimination, filter properties, etc.) in species that differ in structural, behavioral or ecological detail. We also make parallel comparisons between sensory modalities that are responsive to overlapping sets of stimuli.


Sheila  Chase

Sheila studies the manner in which information, primarily visual patterns, are processed, remembered and used as organisms adapt to the challenges of survival.  Through extensive work on the food seeking behavior of pigeons we have been able to describe, in quantitative detail, how stimuli reliably associated with motivationally significant outcomes of behavior are isolated from other potentially relevant stimuli and how such stimulus information is processed.


Tracy   Dennis

Tracy studies emotion regulation focusing on one fundamental question: How do emotions organize development and facilitate or hinder mental health? Emotions permeate and influence every aspect of our lives. Indeed, even moderate fluctuations in emotion systematically change, and are changed by, biological states, cognitions, goals, behaviors, and social interactions. Emotion regulation refers to the flexibility and control of these changes, and has a direct and profound influence on our daily actions and on our ability to cope with conflict and challenge.


Paul Forlano

Using fish as model systems, Paul employs a combination of evolutionary/systems neuroscience with a molecular and cellular approach in order to identify the mechanisms underlying steroid-induced neural plasticity and sex differences in brain and behavior. These studies focus on vocal, auditory and neuroendocrine circuits that are conserved across vertebrates.

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Stefano Ghirlanda

Stefano studies cultural evolution, mechanisms of human thinking and what distinguishes humans from other animals.


Frank Grasso

Frank studies the Biomimetic and Cognitive Robotics (BCR) lab conducts research into the neural, ecological and behavioral foundations of intelligence. Closely paralleled animal and robot studies are conducted to quantitatively evaluate alternative explanations for the intelligent behavior of biological systems. Because of several technical advantages our studies have historically focused on marine invertebrates (crustaceans such as lobsters and crayfish, and cephalopods such as octopuses and cuttlefish). Research in this interdisciplinary area contributes to our knowledge of biology, psychology, artificial intelligence, fluid mechanics and robotics. Our research with robotics provides a framework for the study of memory and decision making for the control and coordinator of behavior in biologically relevant contexts. The primary aim of this research is to understand biological mechanisms of behavior and a secondary aim is the development of new technologies inspired by animal abilities.


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Cheryl Harding

Cheryl has recently switched her research area from behavioral neuroendocrinology in birds to behavioral neuroimmunology in mice. Over the last few years, evidence has mounted that exposure to mold causes a broad range of health problems. According to most estimates, about 33-40% of American buildings are moldy. As a neuroscientist, she is particularly intrigued by the effects of mold exposure on neural function and cognition. Recent research has documented that people who lived or worked in moldy buildings had multiple cognitive problems. The Harding lab is developing a mouse model of how mold exposure activates an immune response in the brain causing serious deficits in learning and memory.



Mark Hauber

My research focuses on evolutionary hypotheses and ecological contexts of animal behavior.  We ask, in general, how animals tell apart their friends from their enemies.  As a model system, for example, my own research has focused on brood parasitic birds, such as cuckoos and cowbirds, which lay their eggs in other birds nests.  Why does the host accept the foreign egg and chick in its nest and how does the parasite trick the host to provide more food than its fair share?

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Darcy Kelley

Darcy studies vocal communication, a form used by a number of species including our own. Vocal signals have a number of advantages for communication. Reception of the signal does not require a specific orientation and does not depend on time of day. Within the acoustic channel, information can be carried by a number of sub-channels that include sound frequency (or pitch), sound intensity (or loudness) and the temporal patterns of sounds. Vocal communication also poses some steep challenges as even a brief consideration of human speech reveals. A simpler example is sound localization. Where the sound is coming from and how it is moving must be calculated from many ambiguous information sources. Nonetheless, perhaps because locating the sound source is fundamental to social communication, many species have developed highly effective mechanisms to home in on (or avoid) a vocal signaler or a sound source (such as a predator).


David Lahti

David's lab is engaged in why organisms look and act the way they do. How and why do particular traits evolve, and how is this related to the role those traits play in the lifestyle of an organism in its environment? I would consider this the central question of evolutionary ecology, a field which has been at the heart of biology ever since Darwin raised the question and proposed natural selection as a general answer. In much of my research I start addressing this question by looking at specific cases, often in birds but also in humans. Sometimes the initial questions can be very basic: How do swamp sparrows learn their songs? How does an African weaverbird defend itself against a cuckoo that lays eggs in its nest? Why do some birds lay blue eggs? In order to answer such questions I use a variety of methods including field observations and experiments, molecular genetic analyses, examination of museum specimens, and laboratory studies of captive birds. I then use the results of these studies to test general hypotheses about the evolutionary process, with the goal of developing and refining theory.


David Lohman

David studies the ecology and evolution of insects in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.  He uses a combination of field ecology and molecular phylogenetic methods to investigate how interactions between insects and other organisms shape hyper-diverse communities in the tropics.  He is also studies the phylogeography of butterflies and other organisms in the Indo-Australian archipelago.


Dan McCloskey

Dan investigates how brain activity and organization are influenced by environmental factors and behavioral experiences. Through behavioral, anatomical, and physiological methodologies, we study how early life experiences might cause subtle alterations in brain development that lead to life-long learning deficits and increased likelihood of abnormal brain activity patterns.  We are also examining the relationships between social behavior and brain organization in a highly social species: the naked mole rat.


Peter Moller

Peter studies electric fish of the families Mormyridae (elephantnose fish) and Malapteruridae (electric catfish). His research interests in these animals include  i) multisensory integration, i.e. the interplay of their electrosenses, sight, and lateral line, in orientation, navigation, and communication; ii) sensory and molecular bases of maze learning and memory retention in mormyrids (together with Peter Serrano and Chris Braun), and iii) sensory recognition in electric catfish .


Jason Munshi-South

Jason is interested in the behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary impacts of large-scale human disturbance on wild vertebrate populations. Current lab projects are primarily focused on understanding the evolutionary implications of urbanization for wildlife in New York City. We study urban populations as model systems of rapid microevolution, but also aim to provide data for urban conservation and restoration efforts.


Thomas Preuss

Thomas research focuses on mechanistic questions of neural decision-making and plasticity in sensorimotor systems. Specifically, he  is studying how the environment modifies the expression of adaptive behaviors at the level of individual neurons.


Carolyn Pytte

Carolyn is interested in the function and regulation of new neurons born in the post-embryonic brain, particularly in adulthood. Although we have known about adult neurogenesis for decades, the relationship between new neurons and behavior remains unclear. To study this brain-behavior relationship, we are focusing on new neurons that are incorporated into the motor pathway underlying the production of learned song motor patterns in songbirds.


Diana Reiss

Diana studies communication and intelligence in large mammals including dolphins, elephants & primates.


Adrian Rodriguez-Contreras

Adrian uses a combination of anatomical, physiological, molecular and optical techniques, to investigate the development of auditory brainstem circuits involved in sound localization in birds and mammals.


Jessica Rothman

Jessica studies What are the nutritional goals of primates and how are they met under different ecological and physiological constraints? How do nutrient distributions contribute to primate abundance? What are the nutritional factors that facilitate the coexistence of primate species? Within a primate group, how are the nutritional needs of differing age and sex classes met in the absence of sexual segregation?


Ofer Tchernichovski

Ofer uses the songbird to study mechanisms of vocal learning. Like early speech development in the human infant, the songbird learns to imitate complex sounds during a critical period of development. The adult bird cannot imitate any more - we do not know why. His lab studies the animal behavior and dynamics of vocal learning and sound production across different brain levels. The lab aims to uncover the specific physiological and molecular (gene expression) brain processes that underlie song learning.


Sarah M.N. Wooley

Sarah studies how perception in the context of social communication is accomplished in the brain.

Songbirds learn to recognize, respond to and produce the complex songs of other birds. They use their songs to communicate socially, in the contexts of mating and self advertisement. This makes them very interesting model systems for understanding how sensory signals are encoding and decoded by the brain and how that process results in perception and social communication. The lab is focused on four projects that address how the brain functions during song perception.