Welcome to the crablab at Illinois State University

We are studying the mechanisms that allow neurons to generate activity that is robust against perturbations. We are particularly interested in how neurons deal with changing body conditions and environmental influences. Climate-change-driven temperature changes, for example, affect the nervous systems of billions of animals, and hyperthermia and fever can severely damage the human brain. Surprisingly, we know very little about how the nervous system can respond to detrimental temperature changes and how it may remain functional when it heats up.

One focus of our research is on neuromodulators that are released in the nervous system, like neuropeptides or monoamines, and how they allow neurons to continue to function during temperature perturbations. A second focus is on how sensory signals are processed in the nervous system, and how they affect neuronal activity.

We take advantage of the well-studied central pattern generators of different crab and crayfish species to achieve an evolutionary perspective of these questions and to extract general mechanisms that help us understand neuronal responses to environmental stimuli. Because crustacean neurons are comparatively large, are exposed to many environmental influences, and have a known connectome, the same neurons and circuits can also be identified in many different species, which allows evolutionary comparisons. Importantly, neurons, networks, and their modulatory systems continue to function outside of the animal, and can be kept alive for many days ex-vivo. This allows us to study the cellular and network effects of varying environmental and paracrine conditions in great detail.


  • IMSAloquium - High School Student Presentations Our high school student Saisu Talasu presented her research on Dopamine receptors today at the annual colloquium of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, IMSAloquium. Like all seminars these days ...
    Posted Apr 22, 2020, 7:39 AM by Wolfgang Stein
  • Research stay in Germany PI Stein and Ph.D. student Margaret DeMaegd spent two month at Greifswald University in Germany to study variability in neuronal structures using the all-clonal species of marbled crayfish ...
    Posted Mar 23, 2020, 11:49 PM by Wolfgang Stein
  • PhD student Margaret DeMaegd wins University Scholarship Congrats to PhD student Margaret DeMaegd for being awarded the Robert Preston University Club Scholarship. The photo shows Maggie with Dr. Preston as she receives her award. 
    Posted Dec 6, 2019, 3:42 PM by Wolfgang Stein
  • BSSA Research Symposium Proud of Saisu Talasu, High school student in the lab, and Maisam Yousef, undergraduate student, for presenting their research at the annual BSSA Research Symposium today. Maisam won 2nd place ...
    Posted Nov 20, 2019, 9:34 PM by Wolfgang Stein
  • MS student Josselyn Gonzalez speaking at the Charles Morris STEM Social for underrepresented students Josselyn volunteered at the 6th annual Charles Morris STEM Social for underrepresented students as a representative of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP). Josselyn talked about student opportunities ...
    Posted Nov 19, 2019, 9:35 AM by Wolfgang Stein
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