Department of Zoology

Kathleen A. Killian
Associate Professor
Ph.D. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey , 1990
neurophysiology and behavior
260 PSN
Office Hours:
  Monday . . . .
  Tuesday . . . .
  Wednesday . . 8:15 - 9:30
  Thursday. . . . 11:00 - 12:00
  Friday. . . . . . Others by appt.

Biographical Information:

I am a neurobiologist whose research focuses on brain and behavioral plasticity; in particular, on the factors that regulate the birth and survival of new neurons in the adult brain. We use the cricket as our model organism because, just like vertebrates, they maintain specific populations of neural progenitor cells that continue to divide and give rise to new neurons in the adult brain. These new neurons become integrated into the mushroom bodies, brain structures functionally analogous to the vertebrate hippocampus. Most recently, my research has focussed on 2 primary projects:

We recently reported that agonistic behavior can enhance neurogenesis. Following a fight, dominant male crickets have more newborn brain neurons than subordinate males. This is due to an enhanced suvival of newborn neurons in dominant males. Our goal is to identify the factors responsible for this effect of social status on adult neurogenesis. We are currently examining the role the immune system may play, not only in adult neurogenesis, but also in agonistic behavior and social status. Techniques we utilize in this project include behavioral analyses; immunohistochemistry; confocal microscopy; enzyme assays and HPLC-ECD.

The second focus in my laboratory is an investigation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that allow neural progenitors to maintain the capacity to divide and proliferate throughout adulthood. In particular, we have found that insect progenitors are similar to those of mammals in that they label with glial markers. We have been examining the microenvironment of these progenitors in order to determine the factors that regulate their ability to divide. We have also been examining the effects of injury on proliferation and neurogenesis. Techniques utilized in these studies include cell culture, immunocytochemistry, western blots and single cell electrophysiology. We plan to use RNAi to knock down the expression of the glial-specific proteins that we hypothesize may play a significant role in permitting these adult neuroblasts to remain mitotic.

Courses Taught:

  1. Principles of Human Physiology (ZOO 161)
  2. Animal Physiology (ZOO 305)
  3. Neurophysiology (ZOO 469/569)
  4. Methods in Neurophysiology (ZOO 459/559)
  5. Mechanisms in Neurobiology (ZOO 640)
  6. Seminar in Neuroscience (ZOO 710.Z)

Recent Publications:

  1. Ghosal K, Naples SP, Raabe A and Killian KA (in review). Agonistic behavior and electrical stimulation of the antennae induces Fos-like protein expression in the male cricket brain. Archives Insect Biochemistry and Physiology

  2. 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.

  3. Killian KA and Allen JR (2008). Mating can reset male cricket aggression. Journal of Insect Behavior 21:535-548.

  4. Killian KA, Snell LC, Ammarell R and Crist TO (2006) Suppression of escape behaviour during mating in the cricket Acheta domesticus. Animal Behaviour 72: 487-502.