Kathy Killian is a neurobiologist whose research focuses on brain and behavioral plasticity; in particular, on factors that regulate the birth and survival of new neurons in the adult brain. The cricket and flesh fly are used as model organisms in her studies because, like vertebrates, they maintain specific populations of neural progenitor cells in the brain that continue to divide and give rise to new neurons in adulthood. Most recently, her research has focused on two primary areas:
1) Investigation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms allowing neural stem cells to maintain the capacity to proliferate throughout adulthood. Adult neurogenesis can occur within specialized anatomical microenvironments, or niches. Both intrinsic cell-to-cell communication and extrinsic blood borne factors can play important roles in maintaining stem cell niches; experiments have been designed to investigate such factors. Techniques utilized in these studies include RNAi and qPCR; BrdU labeling of mitotic cells; immunocytochemistry; confocal microscopy; TEM; and single cell electrophysiology. A thorough understanding of the molecular mechanisms allowing stem cells to remain mitotic in adult brains has far-reaching implications for advancing our understanding of the role these cells may play in brain plasticity and repair.
2) Analysis of the link between the insect innate immune system and the maturation of agonistic behavior, the determination of social status, and the regulation of adult neurogenesis. The cricket, a classic model organism for the study of agonistic behavior, is used in these studies. Perturbations that can lead to cellular changes that result in brain inflammation are also under study. Techniques utilized include behavioral analyses; immune assays; GC-MS; RNAi and qPRC. The goal of these studies is to examine the immune system’s ability to influence behavior and brain function.
Neurophysiology (BIO 469/567)
Human Physiology (BIO 305)
Graduate Seminar in Neuroscience (BIO 710)
- Pinera AV, Charles HM, Dinh TA, Killian KA (2013) Maturation of the immune system of the male house cricket, Acheta domesticus. Journal of Insect Physiology 59:752-760.
- Ghosal K, Naples SP, Rabe A and Killian KA (2010) Agonistic behavior and electrical stimulation of the antennae induces Fos-like protein expression in the male cricket brain. Archives Insect Biochemistry and Physiology 74(1):38-51.
- Ghosal K, Gupta M and Killian KA (2009) Dominance status enhances adult neurogenesis in male Acheta domesticus crickets. Journal of Experimental Biology 212: 2045-2056.
- Killian KA and Allen JR (2008) Mating can reset male cricket aggression. Journal of Insect Behavior 21:535-54