Leah Wilson

Assistant Professor, Neuroscience
Shankweiler Biology Building

[email protected]

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  • B.A., Oberlin College
  • M.S., College of William & Mary
  • Ph.D., Indiana University - Bloomington



Teaching Interests

Ultimately, I teach because I enjoy being part of the arduous and transformative process of learning. I take great pleasure in introducing students to the questions that initially attracted me to science and to an analytical framework that I believe will serve them across disciplines and beyond the classroom. At a personal level, each course offers me not only an opportunity to dive deeper into a particular topic, but an occasion to see that topic from the unique perspective of each student in the classroom.

One of the reasons I enjoy teaching neuroscience is because of its interdisciplinary nature. A class discussion might connect gene expression, cell-cell signaling and behavioral interactions between individuals. I hope that students leave my classes with deepened curiosity about the natural world and an appreciation for the range of techniques we can use to investigate neurobiological processes.


Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests

My research is grounded in a deep curiosity about behavior. Why do animals behave the way they do? Different disciplines approach this question from different perspectives. I am interested in the question from both mechanistic and functional perspectives. How does the brain regulate behavior and how do specific behaviors influence an individual’s fitness as it navigates its ever-changing environment?

My lab investigates behavior in the zebrafish, a highly social species native to South Asia. We explore the neural systems that specifically regulate social behavior (e.g. grouping, courtship, aggression). The neural mechanisms that we study are remarkably conserved across vertebrates. Many of the neurochemical systems that regulate social behavior in fish also regulate social behavior in amphibians, birds and mammals, including humans. In addition to exploring how specific neurochemicals regulate social interactions, we also explore how neurochemical systems generate individual variation. Why do certain individuals prefer to spend time in larger groups? Why are some individuals more aggressive than others?

Students in the lab may take a variety of approaches. Some may focus on the anatomical description of neural circuits, others may focus on behavioral quantification and the pharmacological manipulation of behavior.

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