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Circuits & Mechanisms of Social Behavior

Understanding how the brain works is a necessary step to ultimately improve memory during aging, gather accurate meaning from the world around us, and alleviate abnormal anxieties. Although neuroscience is progressing towards this understanding, the brain is a complicated structure and we currently have little knowledge of how it functions. It has been difficult to figure out how to study the brain. Human study has been tried because we can self-report our sensations, feelings, intellectual, and motivational states; however, scientists cannot manipulate the human brain to be able to determine the underlying cause and effect. In contrast, animal models provide the ability to identify and test brain function but understanding an animal’s mind and feelings are difficult, so the field settles for training the mouse to perform human-like tasks to infer their mental states. The Stowers Lab is focusing on natural, innate animal social behavior that is highly conserved across species such as courtship, rage, fear, and newborn-parent interactions. In this model, the state of the mind of an animal is easier to interpret and the brain mechanisms and function are accessible to scientific testing. Moreover, this research strategy provides a window into most aspects of brain function. To trigger social behavior the brain must engage computations such as learning and memory, sensory coding, motivation, sexual dimorphism, age-related changes, and integrate internal state needs such as hunger or sleepiness. The Stowers’ group is using the platform of innate social behavior to understand these important features of general coding logic to explain how the brain works.

Our Commitment to Diversity

My lab welcomes students, postdocs and visiting scholars regardless race, religion, gender identification, sexual orientation, age, or disability status. The more reflective of society’s diversity the lab is, the better we are. It is through diverse perspectives and abilities that we see all possible answers to a problem.