Research Interests: |
We investigate mechanisms of balance and spatial orientation using the methods of neuroethology and an interdisciplinary team than includes neuroscientists, behavioral biologists, physicists, and engineers. Our experimental models are turtles and mice. These species offer a number of practical advantages for investigation of vestibular mechanisms. Because the vestibular system is highly conserved during evolution, knowledge gained from turtles and mice can be expected to generalize well to other vertebrates, including humans.
Neuroethology is the study of neural mechanisms underlying naturally occurring behavior. Vestibular Neuroethology seeks to understand how head movements during natural behavior are converted into neural signals that can be used by the brain.
This is accomplished in two steps.
I was originally trained as a physiological and comparative psychologist at time when the modern field of Neuroscience was just emerging (the Society for Neuroscience was inaugurated while I was in graduate school). I have always been interested in how the brain acquires and stores new information, and have spent most of my career investigating the response properties of single neurons of the visual and vestibular sensory systems. Shortly after arriving at OU in 1982, my wife (Ellengene Peterson) and I undertook to establish a graduate Neuroscience Program. We succeeded in obtaining Academic challenge and 1804 awards for that purpose, and the program was launched in 1988. Over the next decade, both Biology and Neuroscience became increasingly quantitative and computational, and we helped lead the effort to establish the Quantitative Biology Institute in 2000, which represented collaboration between faculty in the departments of Biology, Mathematics and Physics. Throughout, I have both enjoyed and greatly benefited from the experience of working with an interdisciplinary team to answer questions of fundamental importance in Neuroscience.Representative Publications: