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Ronald CalabreseSenior Associate Dean for Research Samuel C. Dobbs Professor



  • B.S., Cornell University, 1969
  • Ph.D., Stanford University, 1975

Research Area

  • Neuroscience

Graduate Program Affiliation

  • Neuroscience

Research Description

Our lab studies the neural circuit that controls the hearts of medicinal leeches. We record the electrical activity of neurons in this circuit with intracellular and extracellular recording techniques. Using voltage clamp techniques, we isolate and characterize the individual ionic currents that contribute to this activity. We also study the biophysics of synaptic transmission and the role of background calcium in synaptic plasticity using Ca imaging.

To understand how membrane currents and synaptic transmission interact to produce the activity of the circuit, we simulate the ionic currents and cell connectivity with realistic biophysical models. We also use such models in real-time simulation to construct hybrid systems between computer and neuron to analyze circuit and neuronal function.

We address the general questions of how rhythmic motor patterns are generated and coordinated by networks of interneurons and how these patterns are used to produce the final pattern of activity in motor neurons that produce functionally coordinated movement.

Research Lab Description

We are interested in how rhythmic motor patterns are generated and modulated by the central nervous system. We study the heartbeat network of medicinal leeches as a model because the interneurons and motor neurons that control the hearts have been identified and are experimentally accessible for electrophysiological analyses, and the quantitative data generated lends itself to computational modeling and hybrid-systems analyses.