Lauren O’Connell, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Biology
Institution
Stanford University
Address
371 Jane Stanford Way
City, State, Zip
Stanford, CA 94305
Phone
650-721-2768
E-mail
[email protected]
Website
https://oconnell.stanford.edu/
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2020

Research

The O’Connell lab will identify the neural circuits that prompt infants to cry when they are hungry. Communicating our need for nutrition is perhaps our earliest form of social engagement; it allows us not only to obtain nourishment, but it strengthens our bonds with our parents and caregivers. Yet little is known about how the brain regions that sense when we are hungry influence the activity of neurons that direct us to make our needs known. Using an array of tools in neurogenetics, anatomy, brain imaging, and behavioral analysis, my lab will identify the neurons that control social communication in a type of tadpole that begs its parents for food by dancing. We will then determine how the neurons that assess the animals’ nutritional needs and regulate feeding behavior modulate the activity of the neurons responsible for the begging dance. Our findings will expand our understanding of neural development in infants and could lead to novel approaches to the treatment of disorders that affect eating or social communication, such as autism.

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