Evolutionary theory and behavioral biology suggest that kinship is an organising principle of social behavior. The ability to recognise kin and the adjustment of behavior based on kin preference is key to altruism, attachment theory and mate selection. Despite the fundamental importance of kinship, the underlying neural mechanisms are not understood. Our goal is to determine how the brain mediates kinship and attachment behavior using tools of systems and cellular neuroscience.
Our work is focused on understanding the sensory and circuit mechanisms at play in social interactions from an ethological perspective. We focus on the stages of social-sensory processing beginning with recognition and ending with social attachment. In between, we hope to disentangle both innate and learned aspects of kinship social behavior by probing and observing the dynamics of the underlying neural circuits.
We use a variety of techniques to achieve these goals: in vivo and in vitro extracellular and whole-cell patch clamp recordings; large-scale multi-area electrophysiology and imaging with freely-moving behavior; viral mediated connectivity and functional analyses; anatomical and histochemical analysis of functionally characterised neurons. We also have an interest in cross-disciplinary collaborations in the fields of evolutionary biology and psychology.
Feel free to get in touch if you have an interest in applying quantitative methods to study the neural mechanisms of natural social behaviors. We are recruiting highly motivated, curious and collegial candidates for positions*. Interested individuals with interdisciplinary backgrounds ranging from, but not limited to: mathematics, physics, computer science to biology, psychology, neuroscience are all encouraged to inquire.
email: aclemens AT ed.ac.uk
© 2020–21 Ann Clemens