Eric Knudsen, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
I am interested in understanding the neural mechanisms underlying spatial attention. In particular, how do animals balance the desire for focus and the need to maintain sensitivity to their environment? This balance is disrupted in numerous psychiatric disorders. I study the role of midbrain structures in balancing voluntary and reflexive attention.
Research on the visual system of non-primates, such as birds and rodents, is increasing. Evidence that neural responses can differ dramatically between head-immobilized and freely behaving animals underlines the importance of studying visual processing in ethologically relevant contexts. In order to systematically study visual responses in freely behaving animals, an unobtrusive system for monitoring eye-in-orbit position in real time is essential. We describe a novel system for monitoring eye position that utilizes a head-mounted magnetic displacement sensor coupled with an eye-implanted magnet. This system is small, lightweight, and offers high temporal and spatial resolution in real time. We use the system to demonstrate the stability of the eye and the stereotypy of eye position during two different behavioral tasks in chickens. This approach offers a viable alternative to search coil and optical eye tracking techniques for high resolution tracking of eye-in-orbit position in behaving animals.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fnsys.2013.00091
View details for PubMedID 24312023
The perception of sensory stimuli by an animal requires several steps, commencing with the capture of stimulus energy by an antenna that, as the interface between the physical world and the nervous system, modifies the stimulus in ways that enhance the animal's perception. The mammalian external ear, for example, collects sound and spectrally alters it to increase sensitivity and improve the detection of directionality. In view of the morphological diversity of the lateral-line system across species and its accessibility to observation and experimental intervention, we sought to investigate the role of antennal structures on the response characteristics of the lateral line. The surface-feeding killifish Aplocheilus lineatus is able to hunt in darkness by detecting surface capillary waves with the lateral-line system atop its head. This cephalic lateral line consists of a stereotyped array of 18 mechanosensitive neuromasts bordered by fleshy ridges. By recording microphonic potentials, we found that each neuromast has a unique receptive field defined by its sensitivity to stimulation of the water's surface. The ridges help determine these receptive fields by altering the flow of water over each neuromast. Modification of the hydrodynamic environment by the addition of a supplemental ridge changes the pattern of water movement, perturbs the receptive fields of adjacent neuromasts and impairs the fish's localization ability. On the basis of electrophysiological, hydrodynamic and behavioral evidence, we propose that the ridges constitute a hydrodynamic antenna for the cephalic lateral line.
View details for DOI 10.1242/jeb.051714
View details for Web of Science ID 000290473300016
View details for PubMedID 21562172
Long-term influenza evolution has been well studied, but the patterns of sequence diversity within seasons are less clear. H3N2 influenza genomes sampled from New York State over ten years indicated intraseasonal changes in evolutionary dynamics. Using the mean Hamming distance of a set of amino acid or nucleotide sequences as an indicator of its diversity, we found that influenza sequence diversity was significantly higher during the early epidemic period than later in the influenza season. Diversity was lowest during the peak of the epidemic, most likely due to the high prevalence of a single dominant amino acid sequence or very few dominant sequences during the peak epidemic period, corresponding with rapid expansion of the viral population. The frequency and duration of dominant sequences varied by influenza protein, but all proteins had an abundance of one distinct sequence during the peak epidemic period. In New York State from 1995 to 2005, high sequence diversity during the early epidemic suggested that seasonal antigenic drift could have occurred primarily in this period, followed by a clonal expansion of typically one clade during the peak of the epidemic, possibly indicating a shift to neutral drift or purifying selection.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0008544
View details for Web of Science ID 000273225000009
View details for PubMedID 20049091