Heather L. Eisthen, PhD
- East Lansing, Faculty, Training Faculty, Behavioral & Systems
Professor, Integrative Biology
Ph.D., 1992, Indiana University
East Lansing Campus
My central interest is in the evolution of new neural structures and their role in behavior. My research focuses on changes in the olfactory system over the course of vertebrate evolution, and the origin and function of the accessory olfactory (vomeronasal) system in tetrapods. The vomeronasal system has been suggested to have arisen as an adaptation to terrestrial life and to function as a pheromone detector, but recent data suggest that these views are simplistic and inaccurate. Working mostly with axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum), a nonmetamorphosing salamander species, I am pursuing three interrelated lines of research. First, I am investigating chemosensory-guided behavior in axolotls. This includes studies of chemical signalling in courtship and mating behavior, as well as attempts to isolate the compounds involved. I am also interested in examining the role of chemical senses in foraging behavior in axolotls. Second, I am using electrophysiological techniques to examine the function and odor response properties of olfactory subsystems, including the vomeronasal system, with the goal of determining whether different portions of the olfactory and vomeronasal systems carry different types of information or function in different behavioral contexts. Third, I am examining the developmental origin of the olfactory and vomeronasal organs and their targets in the central nervous system, with a view to understanding the developmental changes involved in the evolutionary origin of the vomeronasal system. Students in the lab are exposed to a wide variety of concepts and techniques from behavioral biology, neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, and experimental embryology. I hope that by taking a broad, integrative approach to these problems, we will gain a better understanding of how new neural structures arise in evolution, and how they get incorporated into an existing nervous system to mediate behavior.
Neurological effects of Fragile X Syndrome, regulation and modulation of neuronal excitability of thalamocortical circuits and interactions between basal ganglia and thalamic circuits.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development; College of Human Medicine
Grand Rapids Campus
4012 Grand Rapids Research Center; 400 Monroe Ave NW; Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Cerebral cortex development: (e.g., neural development of sensory systems)
Neurophysiology and neuroplasticity within thalamocortical circuits. Neurophysiological alterations associated with Developmental disorders (fragile X syndrome, Autism), Epilepsy, and Parkinson's Disesase
Developmental exposure to drugs of abuse, development of the dopamine system, etiology and experimental therapeutics of Parkinson's disease
Development of neuroprotective pharmacological agents and strategies for the treatment of dopamine neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson's Disease and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Neuromodulation, Neuroimaging of cortical function, Post-injury plasticity, Somatosensory system, Traumatic brain injury, Peripheral nerve injury, molecular probes, Optical imaging, Development of molecular-based neuromodulation technologies
Regenerate and redefine the interface between neurons and electrodes implanted in the brain, improving the understanding and control of device-tissue integration
Primary neuronal cultures, ex vivo and in vivo gene therapy, stereotaxic surgery, immunohistochemistry, neuro substructure microdissections, behavioral evaluations of motor performance, microscopy, long term deep brain stimulation platform
Structure-function relation of retinal ganglion cells undergoing glaucoma-related degeneration in the primate eye. Development of treatment strategies aimed at mitigating or preventing glaucomatous retinal ganglion cell degeneration
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technique development. Use neuroimaging to understand mild traumatic brain injury, normal aging, Alzheimer's disease (AD), AD risk reduction, and effects of hypertension on the brain.