Bruce A. Carlson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Neurosciences Program
Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology Program
Computational and Systems Biology Program

  • (314) 935-3486

  • (314) 935-3487

  • (314) 935-4432

  • 1137

  • Monsanto Hall Room 415



  • neurophysiology, sensory systems, behavior, evolution, mathematical modeling, neuroanatomy

  • Sensory and Evolutionary Neuroscience

Research Abstract:

Nervous systems evolved to control behavior. One of the primary functions of nervous systems is to receive and process information from the outside world, and then act on that information in ways that maximize survival and reproduction. We employ an integrative approach to understanding animal communication and the evolution of information processing. We are interested in understanding:

How do sensory receptors encode stimuli in the periphery?

How do central sensory pathways extract behaviorally relevant information from peripheral responses?

How does evolutionary change in sensory systems mediate adaptive diversification of perception and behavior?

How does behavior influence ecological interactions and evolutionary processes?

Our work is unique in its application of detailed neurophysiology within a broad comparative framework, and it has implications for our understanding of neural mechanisms for behavior as well as the evolution of behavioral diversity.

Selected Publications:

Carlson, B.A. (2017) Early life experiences have complex and long-lasting effects on behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114: 11571-1573. PMCID: PMC5676937

Vélez, A., Kohashi, T., Lu, A. & Carlson, B.A. (2017) The cellular and circuit basis for evolutionary change in sensory perception in mormyrid fishes. Scientific Reports 7: 3783. PMCID: PMC5476679

Vélez, A., & Carlson, B.A. (2016) Detection of transient synchrony across oscillating receptors by the central electrosensory system of mormyrid fish. eLife 5: e16851. PMCID: PMC4954753

Sukhum, K.V., Freiler, M.K., Wang, R., & Carlson, B.A. (2016) The costs of a big brain: extreme encephalization results in higher energetic demand and reduced hypoxia tolerance in weakly electric African fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 283: 20162157. PMCID: PMC5204165

Baker, C.A., Ma, L., Casareale, C., & Carlson, B.A. (2016) Behavioral and single-neuron sensitivity to millisecond variations in temporally patterned communication signals. The Journal of Neuroscience 36: 8985-9000. PMCID: PMC4995309

Baker, C.A., Huck, K.R., & Carlson B.A. (2015) Peripheral sensory coding through oscillatory synchrony in weakly electric fish. eLife 4:e08163. PMCID: PMC4522468

Baker, C.A., & Carlson B.A. (2014) Short-term depression, temporal summation, and onset inhibition shape interval tuning in midbrain neurons. The Journal of Neuroscience 34:14272-14287. PMCID: PMC4205552

Lyons-Warren, A.M., Kohashi, T., Mennerick, S., & Carlson, B.A. (2013) Detection of submillisecond spike timing differences based on delay-line anti-coincidence detection. Journal of Neurophysiology 110: 2295-2311. PMCID: PMC3841875

Ma X, Kohashi T & Carlson BA (2013) Extensive excitatory network interactions shape temporal processing of communication signals in a model sensory system. Journal of Neurophysiology 110:456-469. PMID: 23615550.

Carlson BA, Hasan SM, Hollmann M, Miller DB, Harmon LJ & Arnegard ME (2011). Brain evolution triggers increased diversification of electric fishes. Science 332:583-586. PMID: 21527711

Last Updated: 7/27/2018 11:02:36 AM

In the genus Paramoryrops (top), electric organ discharges have rapidly evolved, resulting in dramatic differences in signal waveform among closely-related species. In the genus Petrocephalus (bottom), electric organ discharges have evolved much more slowly, resulting in similar waveforms among species. This difference in signal diversification rates resulted from evolutionary change in the electro-sensory and electro-motor systems that these fish use to communicate with each other. The duration of each pulse ranges from about 500 microseconds in various Petrocephalus species to nearly 10 milliseconds in Paramormyrops gabonensis.
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