Paul S. Katz
Director of Neuroscience and Professor of Biology
BA, Integrated Science; Northwestern University 1982
MS, Neurophysiology; Northwestern University 1982
PhD, Neurobiology; Cornell University 1989
Dr. Katz is interested in understanding how neuronal circuits operate. He uses sea slugs (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Heterobranchia, Nudipleura) because they have fairly simple brains and simple behaviors. His lab determines the neural mechanisms for these behaviors at the cellular level. Furthermore, because there are many species with similar nervous systems, they can compare the neural circuits in these species to learn about the evolution of neural circuits and behavior. Individual animals exhibit variability in behavior and/or variability in circuit properties. It is important to understand the implications of these differences. Sea slugs offer a great opportunity for studying such inter-individual variability because the neurons in neural circuits are individually identifiable. So, one can examine how particular neurons and particular synapses differ between individuals. Furthermore, one can perturb those neurons and synapses to make them more or less similar to each other using techniques like dynamic clamp or expression of exogenous genes. A new direction in the lab involves using Next Generation RNA sequencing to determine all of the genes that are expressed in slug brains, the so-called transcriptome. This has been completed in six different species, allowing the researchers to determine differences and similarities in their genes and then to map those genes onto the neural circuits and the behavior.
Katz PS (2019) My Word: The conservative bias of life scientists. Current Biology, 29, R663–R682. PMID:31336077 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.066.
Sakurai A, Katz PS. (2019) Command or obey? Homologous neurons differ in hierarchical position for the generation of homologous behaviors. J Neurosci. pii: 3229-18. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3229-18.2019. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31209170.
Katz PS and Quinlan PD (2019) The importance of identified neurons in gastropod molluscs to neuroscience, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, v56.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2018.10.009
Tamvacakis AN, Senatore A, and Katz PS. (2018) Single neuron serotonin receptor subtype gene expression correlates with behaviour within and across three molluscan species. Proc. Royal Soc. B 285: 20180791; http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/285/1885/20180791
Cook GM, Gruen AE, Morris J, Pankey MS, Senatore A, Katz PS, Watson WH, Newcomb JM (2018) Sequences of circadian clock proteins in the nudibranch mollusks Hermissenda crassicornis, Melibe leonina, and Tritonia diomedea. Biol Bull.234, 207-218. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/698467