Lab members
Cynthia F. Moss, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
The importance of sensory-guided behaviors captured my interest early in college, and ever since, I have investigated visual, gustatory, tactile and auditory systems in diverse species. My undergraduate thesis research at the University of Massachusetts with Professor Vincent Dethier characterized changes in gustatory responses to sucrose-quinine mixtures with hunger states in the blowfly. Later, as a research technician at the University of Washington, I contributed to research on the development of spatial vision in human infants and rod-cone interactions in adults. In graduate school at Brown University, my first studies investigated the dependence of spatial contrast on single neuron responses to luminance changes. I later conducted neuroethological studies of hearing with Professor Megela-Simmons, and my dissertation research exploited a reflex modification method to measure absolute hearing sensitivity and critical ratios in the green treefrog. As a postdoc, I first carried out experiments on target ranging by echolocation in bats at the University of Tübingen with Professor Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler and later at Brown University with Professor James Simmons. The echolocating bat has served as the primary research subject in my lab over the years, and it now serves as a powerful animal model to investigate a broad range of topics, which include auditory, visual and somatosensory processing, spatial perception, attention, learning, memory, navigation, sensorimotor integration, social communication, predictive target tracking, and flight control. The diversity of research questions investigated in my lab emerges from undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs who pursue their individual research interests.
Susanne J. Sterbing, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
JHU | UMD | Google Scholar
Echolocating bats exhibit an extraordinary array of solutions to the challenges of maneuvering in cluttered environments, pursuing evasive prey, taking food from water surfaces, and landing on the ceiling or walls of confined spaces (holes in trees, rafters in attics, ceiling of caves). Somatosensory signaling of airflow along the wing membrane contributes to this exquisite flight control, but successful navigation in the dark must also engage multisensory processes that guide a suite of adaptive motor behaviors. I am interested in the multisensory components of this sophisticated model system that are involved in flight control, like auditory (sonar), tactile, and proprioceptive components. The goal is to link changes in neural activity to behavioral changes, i.e., adaptive flight trajectories and vocal-motor patterns. Indices of state changes will play an important role in the development of hybrid control system models and algorithms for robotic platforms.
Kirsten (Kisi) Bohn, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
I am interested in the evolution of vocal and social complexity. Everyone would agree that humans have the greatest vocal complexity known. However, even though a great deal of research has focused on speech production and language evolution, these topics remain highly controversial. This is in part because only a handful of animals use complex vocal signals. Indeed, birdsong has been our main model for the neurophysiology of speech and the evolution of complex vocalizations. Our goal is to add bats as a comparative model to better understand the production and evolution of vocal complexity, including human speech. Bats can also serve as a model for social complexity and cooperation as there are over 1200 species of bats the majority of which are highly social.
Melville Wohlgemuth, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Research | Google Scholar
I am a behavioral neuroscientist with a specific interest in sensorimotor integration. My work is on the echolocating bat, and how the bat uses auditory information to adapt sonar vocalizations as a model for audio-vocal integration. As the bat hunts and captures insects, sonar vocalizations are produced that return sonar echoes to the bat's auditory system. The bat then uses this information to adaptively shape the features of subsequent sonar vocalizations, ear/head motion, and flight behaviors. In this way, sensory activity influences motor activity, and motor behaviors feed back upon sensory representations. I study the reciprocal feedback loops between the bat's sensory representation of the environment, and the active sensing behaviors used for gathering sensory information.
Angeles (Angie) Salles, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Google Scholar
I am interested in the auditory processing of complex sounds. In humans, efforts have been made to investigate the neural underpinnings of speech and music processing. It is crucial to establish mammalian models that will allow us to comparatively investigate molecular principles involved in complex-sound processing. Bats are gregarious animals that have well developed audio-vocal systems and produce ultrasonic vocalizations to localize objects in their environment, and social communication calls that vary in complexity, form, and function. By using electrophysiological, behavioral and molecular approaches I aim to investigate how the brain of these auditory specialists processes sounds used for navigation and those used for communication. Specifically, how do bats discriminate sounds that show overlap in spectro-temporal features but carry different semantic content?
Jennifer Lawlor, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
My PhD work at The Ecole Normale Superieure focused on how the cortical representation of changes in complex sounds is transformed along the cortical pathway, leading to an output behavior. I have used a combination of electrophysiology in the awake behaving animal, human psychophysics, and modeling approaches to tackle that question. As a post doc, I am interested in examining neural circuits underlying learning of flexible, context-dependent behaviors in auditory tasks in multiple species. Working with Dr. Cynthia Moss and Dr. Kishore Kuchibhotla, I aim to use two photon calcium imaging to visualize and compare the responses of large populations of target neurons in the auditory pathway in both bats and mice.
Iven Yu
Graduate Student
Spatial navigation is essential to the survival of animals. During navigation, animals can use sensory information acquired from the environment to build a mental representation of the space. I am interested in how animals changes their strategies in acquiring sensory information from the environment under different navigation tasks; and how these changes may affect the mental representation of the space. In our lab, we monitor the vocal behaviors of echolocating bats (i.e. how bats acquiring sensory information) in navigation tasks. We have demonstrated that bats increased sonar inspections towards landmark compared with distractor objects. To understand how changes in vocal behaviors influence mental representation of the space, we record neural activities from the hippocampus of the bats, a key brain structure implicated in spatial navigation. Our current data suggest that increase in vocal rate can sharpen the spatial tuning of hippocampal place cells. We plan to further investigate the relationship between hippocampal representation of the space and various vocal behaviors under different and complex spatial environment.
Brittney Boublil
Graduate Student
I am primarily interested in how sensory information from our environment is integrated in the brain and used to adapt and coordinate various behaviors. Echolocating bats offer a unique opportunity to study these questions because they have evolved specializations to navigate and forage in the dark, using biological sonar. Echolocating bats produce high frequency sounds and process information in the returning echoes to localize objects in space and guide orienting behaviors. Importantly, bats adapt the features of the sonar signals they produce in response to spatial information they extract from returning echoes. Specifically, I am interested in investigating how the echolocating bat, Eptesicus fuscus, coordinates its adaptive sonar behavior with species-specific orienting behaviors and flight control. One aspect of my research focuses on investigating how the superior colliculus (SC) is involved in orchestrating the temporal coordination between echo processing and adaptive vocal behaviors. Additionally, I am interested in examining the role of tactile hairs on the surface of the bat wing in sensorimotor integration for flight control.
Te Jones
Graduate Student
Bats exist in naturally complex environments that present a variety of challenges for fulfilling basic needs such as orientation/navigation, prey capture, and obstacle avoidance. Bats are one of the only animals who use active sensory systems - echolocation - to accomplish these tasks. I am primarily interested in how bats dynamically adjust their vocalizations to accommodate acoustic interference in highly variable soundscapes that include insects, conspecifics, anthropogenic noise, and various abiotic sources that can make it difficult to successfully utilize echolocation. We employ behavioral and neurophysiological techniques to explore how bats process and respond to these interfering signals. Because echolocation has numerous limitations, especially in noisy environments, I am also interested in how bats integrate information across multiple sensory modalities. In addition to designing experiments to inform our basic understanding of bat visual systems, I study how bats use both auditory and visual signals to influence their behavioral responses in a variety of contexts.
Clarice Diebold
Graduate Student
Bats dynamically shift call structure in order to track and intercept targets, often in cluttered or noisy environments. I am interested in how bats are able to interpret returning echoes to generate internal models about target motion. Working in collaboration with Dr. Angeles Salles, we aim to determine if bats use predictive or non-predictive strategies when tracking target motion and evaluate how they might change strategies when the prediction is challenged by occluding part of the target trajectory. We intend to then examine over what time scales bats are able to integrate sensory information in order to generate internal models of target motion. Ultimately, we aim to understand how the mammalian brain is able to support this generation of internal models to predict and intercept target motion by recording from the superior colliculus in the midbrain.
Wei Xian
Lab Manager

Kishore Kuchibhotla

Timothy Horiuchi

P.S. Krishnaprasad

Ellen Lumpkin

Rachel Page

Shihab Shamma

Jonathan Simon

Annemarie Surlykke

Nachum Ulanovsky

Yossi Yovel


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