2013-01-10 13.02.22 (2)
Goldfish Pond at the Delaware State University Aquaculture Facilities

Studies in systems ranging from humans to lower vertebrates have demonstrated that neural circuits can be modulated by steroid hormones. Many organs in the body are receptive to steroid hormones, which exert their actions either indirectly via the circulation or directly via local production in tissues, including the brain. Two classic neuroethological model systems, the songbird and midshipman fish, have demonstrated that neurons in auditory circuits possess both the capability to produce 17β-estradiol (E2), a potent estrogen. Currently, little is known about the mechanisms through which estrogens exert their rapid actions.

The research focus of my lab is understanding how estradiol acutely modulates neuronal using a classic neural system, the Mauthner cell circuit of the goldfish, which controls the escape response. The Mauthner cell receives massive input from the auditory branch of the VIIIth cranial nerve and the circuit has been described over many decades anatomically, physiologically and behaviorally. By examining the startle response at each of these levels, the Mauthner cell circuit permits correlation of a well-defined behavior with its underlying cellular processes.

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