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Contact Info:

Kelly Banks
Former Lab Member

Academic Background
BS Biopsychology, Tufts University, 2012

Research Interests
Modality-specific Nociception and Defensive Behaviors in Manduca

I am interested in nociception, or how Manduca receives high threshold stimuli. Invertebrate models have become popular in nociception research recently as many underlying mechanisms appear to be highly conserved over evolutionary time, likely because of the adaptive importance of avoiding possibly damaging stimuli. Like our own nociceptive system, they are responsive to different modalities including thermal, mechanical and chemical stimuli. However, one aspect of invertebrate nociception that has remained elusive is whether and how these systems can discriminate between these various modalities.

I am investigating these questions in Manduca on both the behavioral and cellular levels, specifically using noxious mechanical and heat stimuli. Manduca responds to both modalities with the strike response, a fast directed movement of the head towards the stimulation site. Manduca also has a robust inventory of secondary defensive behaviors, including projectile regurgitation, fast thrashing movements of the head and several more. This relatively large inventory gives more insight into what exactly the animal senses and how much it can distinguish between stimuli. I am creating ethograms of the full behavioral response to intensity-matched pure thermal and mechanical stimuli, then comparing to observe whether there is any adaptive difference in the animal�s behavior. Further, I am performing cross-habituation experiments to show whether these signaling pathways are at least partially distinct. I am also performing electrophysiological recording from the sensory neurons to determine the responsiveness of different cell types to either modality over a range of intensities, focusing primarily on the multi-dendritic neurons in the body wall.

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