Current Projects

The long-term objective of this research program is to identify the interactions among chemical messengers that control behaviors.  Neuropeptides regulate social behaviors in representative species from all vertebrate classes.  Species differences in behavior, however, have made development of clear mechanistic models difficult.  The current laboratory projects address the complexity of behavioral mechanisms using a combination of laboratory and field experiments and computational models.

Laboratory studies focus on the mechanisms of action of neuropeptides, neurotransmitters and neuroactive steroids.  Results of these projects provide better understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of important behaviors.  Field studies address important emerging questions on neuropeptide modulation of affiliative and aggressive behaviors. Synthetic experiments with agent-based computational models allow exploration of conditions impractical or impossible in empirical tests.  The models are expected to propose new mechanisms for neurochemical control of behavior.  These projects thus implement a tight experiment-model-experiment loop and focus on the development of a new paradigm for a systems biology approach to understanding social behavior.

Read two recent book chapters that summarize parts of our research:

Boyd, S.K. (2012) Vasotocin modulation of social behaviors in amphibians. Chapter 7 in: Oxytocin,
Vasopressin and Related Peptides in the Regulation of Behavior, edited by E. Choleris, D. Pfaff and
M. Kavaliers, Cambridge University Press.

Boyd, S.K. (2012) Amphibian neurohypophysial peptides. Chapter 49 in: The Handbook of
Biologically Active Peptides, edited by A. Kastin, Elsevier. (First edition, 2006; Second edition forthcoming in 2012.)


Computational Modeling

Social behaviors involve complex give-and-take between animals, as well as interactions with the environment. To explore these interactions and generate new hypotheses about the control of behavior, we have developed computational models of social behavior. These biologically-plausible models test theoretical predictions about mechanisms of behavior modulation and the social consequences of behavior. Our models use …

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GABA and Neurosteroids

Neurons communicate with each other across trillions of small spaces called synapses. It has been estimated that one-third of ALL synapses in the brain use the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA thus has a profound influence on brain activity. Although the structure of GABA is simple, its receptors are enormously diverse and complicated. These receptors are poorly …

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Peptide Control of Vocalization

Neuropeptides and steroid hormones alter a variety of vertebrate behaviors, including parental, aggressive, and reproductive behaviors. The mechanisms of action of these compounds and the site in the brain where they act on specific behaviors are poorly understood. We currently focus on the neurohypophysial peptides which modulate the display of vocalizations in many vertebrates. Vocal …

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