aclemens AT ed.ac.uk
I grew up in Dallas and studied at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve always had an interest in animal behavior, which I attribute to youthful explorations of nature in backyards of the Texas Hill Country and forests of southern Arkansas. I became interested in neuroscience research after patching my first cell in an undergraduate laboratory course. This led me to the NIH in Bethesda where I did a Post-baccalaureate Research Fellowship in the lab of Dr. Dax Hoffman; there I participated in work on activity-dependent regulation of A-type K+ channels in hippocampal neurons. As I became enthralled with cellular neurophysiology, I decided to return to Austin to pursue a PhD in the lab of Dr. Daniel Johnston at the Institute for Neuroscience and Center for Learning & Memory. My thesis work focused on dorso-ventral and age-dependent transformations of somato-dendritic h-channel plasticity in neurons of the hippocampus.
With an interest in connecting cellular neurophysiology to behavior, I decided to move to Germany where I did a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Michael Brecht at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience. There, I became intrigued with the idea of examining the neuronal dynamics of social behavior using electrophysiology. I initially examined mechanisms of sexually dimorphic cortical responses to social facial touch, which led us to find that deep-layer neurons in the somatosensory cortex of female rats undergo hormonal regulation with the estrus-cycle.
Following this, I decided to refocus my efforts on a novel natural social behavior and arrived at the topic of kinship behavior. In our pioneering study, we identified a role for the lateral septum in sibling preference behavior and found a topographic representation of kin responsive neurons. This has since opened the avenue of research for my laboratory.
My scientific interests have been continually inspired through teaching efforts and brain-storming sessions with the students in the Neural Systems & Behavior Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory. In 2020 I was awarded a Grass Fellowship to perform research on the Neural Circuits of Kinship Behavior at the MBL, however this has been postponed to 2021 or 2022. In the meantime, we are meeting up as a virtual Grass lab which also allows time for planning the setup of the lab in Edinburgh.