Research

Research Opportunities in my Lab

My lab examines learning and behavior in earthworms. Past research suggests that they are capable of both Pavlovian and instrumental learning; with the help of some dedicated students I am currently studying instrumental behavior (escape and avoidance).  Pavlovian learning will come eventually.

We use locomotor responses in a running wheel as our behavioral measure:

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(24 hrs in 1 min – Lumbricus terrestris)

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(6 hrs of video collapsed into 1 min – Eisenia hortensis)

(Earthworms respond to light)

Our paper on escape and avoidance behavior in Eisenia hortensis is available here: peerj.com/articles/250/

Paper describing the earthworm running wheel is here: www.funjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/june-14-r25.pdf

Paper on using earthworms for measuring speed of action potential is here: advan.physiology.org/content/38/1/62.full.pdf

Selected posters can be viewed here:

  • Earthworms in behavioral neuroscience (SfN 2010)
  • Automated detection of movement and location (Pavlovian 2012)
  • The Annelidometer: Automated monitoring of an earthworm’s position and movement (SfN 2012)
  • Running Wheel Escape Learning in the Earthworm (Pavlovian 2013)
  • MK-801 effect on escape behavior (Pavlovian 2014)
  • Earthworm running wheel (SfN 2015)

I’m also beginning to examine tardigrades. Here are some videos of these fascinating animals:

Current students:

  • Griselda IƱiguez
  • Marlo Scholten
  • Bailee McGraw
  • Molly Bentley
  • Rebecca Crane

Alums:

  • Samantha Ely
  • Kate Sears
  • Brandon Johnson
  • Megan Wickens
  • Ashley Glenn
  • Emily Morlock
  • Holly Paxton
  • Melissa Baguzis
  • Elizabeth Renaud
  • Nicole Ferrara
  • Amanda Blaker
  • Charisa Giddings
  • Cindy Fast
  • Megan Anderson
  • David Goodyear
  • Christina Busuito
  • Amber Chenoweth
  • Heaher Linz
  • Melanie King
  • Julia Ogg

I spent many years studying emotional and learned behavior in rats, resulting in many papers and presentations that can be seen on my vita.

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Students who are interested in gaining research experience and might want to work with earthworms should contact me.  To be seriously considered as a research partner, you should have completed PSY 101, BIO 195, and PSY/NEUR 241 (or at least one other Psychology Course from our List 2).  If you are planning to attend graduate school in neuroscience, animal learning, or a related field, have good grades, and can provide a strong recommendation from another faculty member (if I do not know you well), you will receive first consideration.  Space is limited.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Jeff Wilson » Earthworm Neurophysiology in the Works — December 10, 2010 @ 12:49 am

  2. Jeff Wilson » Recording Earthworm Movement — January 16, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

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