Our lab’s ongoing research projects address two main themes:
1. PRODUCTION AND EVOLUTION OF MULTIMODAL COMMUNICATION DISPLAYS
Multimodal displays are those in which signalers simultaneously use different communication modalities, such as vocal and visual signals, to convey information. We study the neural and physiological adaptations that enable the production of multimodal displays in wild frogs, known as “foot-flagging” frogs. We are also interested in how new signaling behaviors emerge and how evolution has driven diversity in multimodal display behavior. Video: What’s a “foot-flagging” frog? Ongoing work aims to test hypotheses about the ways in which increased androgen hormone sensitivity has co-evolved with this behavior, and whether selection for foot flagging may have driven changes in the neural and muscular systems that support it. This research is being conducted in collaboration with the Vienna Zoo , which houses foot-flagging frogs in a 1000 m3 indoor Bornean rainforest facility. This work is funded by NSF IOS 1655574 to L.A. Mangiamele and M.J. Fuxjager.
Mangiamele, L.A., Fuxjager, M.J., Schuppe, E.R., Taylor, R.S.*, Hödl, W., and Preininger, D. 2016. Increased androgenic sensitivity in the hind limb muscular system marks the evolution of a derived gestural display. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11(20): 5664-5669
2. RAPID EFFECTS OF HORMONES ON SOCIAL AND REPRODUCTIVE BEHAVIOR
We study the neural and hormonal mechanisms that enable social animals to rapidly change their behavior in response to the prevailing social environment. We are particularly interested in the mechanisms by which estrogen acts on the nervous system to rapidly modify the production and perception of communication signals used to guide social interactions. Our recent work has focused on the non-genomic estrogen receptor GPER1 (also known as GPR30) and its role in facilitating social approach of conspecifics, but we are also interested in rapid estrogenic modulation of the neuropeptides vasotocin and/or isotocin and its relation to behavior. We currently use zebrafish and goldfish as model species in which to address these issues.
Thompson, R.R. and Mangiamele, L.A. 2018. Rapid sex steroid effects on reproductive responses in male goldfish: Sensory and motor mechanisms. Hormones and Behavior 104:52-62
Mangiamele, L.A., Gomez, J.R.*, Curtis, N.J., and Thompson, R.R. 2017. GPR30/GPER, a membrane estrogen receptor, is expressed in the brain and retina of a social fish (Carassius auratus) and co-localizes with isotocin. Journal of Comparative Neurology 525(2): 252-270
TRAINING UNDERGRADUATES IN RESEARCH
Smith College is a primarily undergraduate institution and almost all of my lab’s research is done with significant student participation. We address questions about brain and behavior using a variety of techniques, including behavioral testing, hormone assay, molecular cloning and in situ hybridization, quantitative PCR, immunohistochemistry, fluorescence microscopy, and 3-D reconstruction of neuron morphology. Many of these techniques are performed by students working in my research laboratory or enrolled in my upper-level lab-based courses.
I invest time in training committed students for STEM careers. After spending a year or more in my laboratory students will have typically gained experience at the lab bench, acquired important skills in organization and presentation of data, as well as had some opportunity to learn how to code in R for basic statistical analysis. Several of my former students have secured positions in research laboratories and graduate or professional programs, and many have presented their work at regional, national, and international conferences. I am committed to ensuring that our future science workforce is more representative of our country’s population: nearly 100% of students doing research in my lab are women (Smith is a women’s college), almost 50% are persons of color, and 19% are first-generation college students.