Dr. Edward A. Kravitz

George Packer Berry Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Fighting Lobsters: from Genes to Behavior

Lobsters are highly aggressive animals that readily form dominance relationships. Losing animals in agonistic encounters (fights) are not willing to fight with winners for periods of up to a week, while winners show an enhanced willingness to fight. We are particularly interested in the long-term changes in neuronal function that accompany these changes in status. As in most species of animals, serotonin (5HT) appears to be important in this behavior in lobsters. Other hormones also are likely to be involved, including the steroid hormone ecdysone and the peptide crustacean hyperglycemic hormone. We are using a multidisciplinary approach to examine this complex behavior, including behavioral, physiological and molecular studies. This presentation will review behavioral studies attempting to define the role of 5HT in the behavior, physiological studies exploring the function of and intrinsic and extrinsic properties of identified 5HT neurons, and molecular studies beginning to examine differences in the levels of expression of neuronal genes in dominant and subordinate animal pairs.