Our research focuses on sensory circuit function in parasitic and free-living animals, and lies at the interface of neurobiology and parasitology. Nearly all organisms respond to sensory stimuli, but how sensory circuits specify behavior is poorly understood. We are investigating the neural basis of sensory behaviors in the context of human parasitism. We use parasitic nematodes and the free-living nematode C. elegans as models. The goals of our research are to understand how parasitic worms use sensory cues to locate hosts to infect, how sensory circuits of parasitic animals differ from those of free-living animals to enable parasitic behaviors, and how sensory microcircuits generate flexible outputs. Our research addresses fundamental questions of sensory circuit function and evolution. In addition, human-parasitic worms are a major cause of morbidity worldwide, and a better understanding of their behaviors may enable the development of novel strategies for preventing infections.
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