Welcome to the Francis lab at UMD

Research aims

How do we listen? Hearing describes how we sense sound, yet it remains unclear how the brain enables listening. Asked another way, which neural mechanisms underlie how we perceive, remember, and attend to sound? By combining neurophysiology, animal behavior, and data analysis, the Francis lab aims to clarify the neural mechanisms of listening and advance our understanding of how brain function relates to behavior.


The Francis lab studies cortical activity and auditory task performance in mice. We use genetic tools that enable imaging and optical manipulation of the brain. We collect neural data using multi-channel electrophysiology, 2-photon imaging, and widefield imaging—each integrated with a behavioral interface for operant conditioning (positive reinforcement). We build and operate automated systems for operant conditioning in the mouse home-cage. We use quantitative analyses, such as neural decoding, and multivariate statistics, such as Granger causality, to characterize neuronal mechanisms that explain auditory task performance.

Lab members

Nikolas Francis, Ph.D.Principal InvestigatorDepartment of BiologyBrain and Behavior InstituteEmail: cortex [at] umd dot edu
Kristine Hodgson-Torres, B.S.Graduate StudentDepartment of BiologyNeuroscience and Cognitive Science
Nasiru Gill, B.S.Research AssistantDepartment of Biology
Franshesca Orellana CastellanosUndergraduate StudentPhysiology and Neurobiology SpecializationCollege park scholars-Life sciences
Jonathan DinhUndergraduate StudentNeuroscience Major
Gabrielle StephensUndergraduate StudentNeuroscience Major
Tausif KhanUndergraduate StudentComputer Science

Lab alumni

Anna LamUndergraduate Student