Robert Hawkins, PhD

We are investigating cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in two experimental systems: the gill- and siphon-withdrawal reflex in Aplysia, and long-term potentiation in mammalian hippocampus. We are also exploring possible relationships between the mechanisms in these two systems.

Our studies in Aplysia have focused on two simple forms of learning: sensitization and classical conditioning. We use electrophysiological, imaging, and genetic methods to
investigate cellular mechanisms of these forms of learning in isolated cell culture. We also study cellular mechanisms during learning in dissected preparations, in which it is possible to relate more directly the mechanisms to behavior.

We have also focused on long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus, a long-lasting form of synaptic plasticity that is thought to be involved in mammalian learning and memory. We use electrophysiological, imaging, and genetic methods in hippocampal slices and in dissociated cell culture to investigate cellular mechanisms of LTP.