Location: Bowdoin / Patsy S. Dickinson


Patsy Dickinson

Josiah Little Professor of Natural Sciences
(on leave for 2017-18 academic year)

Contact Information


Adams Hall - 403

Teaching next semester

BIOL 2553/NEUR 2553. Neurophysiology

A comparative study of the function of the nervous system in invertebrate and vertebrate animals. Topics include the mechanism that underlie both action potentials and patterns of spontaneous activity in individual nerve cells, interactions between neurons, and the organization of neurons into larger functional units. Lectures and four hours of laboratory work per week.

Patsy S. Dickinson: Bowdoin College


  • B.A., Pomona College
  • M.S., University of Washington
  • Ph.D., University of Washington

Teaching Area

  • Physiology and Neuroscience

Research Statement

My research focuses on the ways in which the nervous system controls behavior. In particular, I have been studying the control of relatively simple, rhythmic behaviors, and the modulation or alteration of these behaviors. The goal of these studies is to understand how flexibility in behavior is controlled at the level of the nervous system. Students in my lab and I have been examining the ways in which several small peptides alter the activity of the nerve cells that control the rhythmic movements of the lobster stomach. Because the lobster nervous system is relatively simple, it can be studied in much more detail than is presently possible with vertebrates; we can thus elucidate general principles which can later be applied to more complex species. In studying these problems, we record the electrical activity of individual neurons with microelectrodes and the activity of whole nerves with extracellular electrodes. These techniques are taught and used in the labs in Biology 213 (Introduction to Neuroscience), Biology 214 (Comparative Physiology), and Biology 253 (Comparative Neurobiology).

*Wiwatpanit, T, *Powers, B., and Dickinson, PS. (2012). INter-animal variability in the effects of C-type allatostatin on the cardiac neuromuscular system in the lobster Homarus americanus. Journal of Experimental Biology 215, 2308-18.

Christie, AE, Stemmler EA, Dickinson PS (2010). Crustacean neuropeptides. Dell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Dec; 67(24):4135-69.

Christie, AE, *JS Stevens, *MR Bowers, MC Chapline, DA Jensen, K Schregg, *J Goldwaser, *MA Kwiatkowski, *TK Pleasant Jr, *L Shoenfeld, *LK Tempest, *CR Williams, *T Wiwatpanit, *ER Gabranski, CM Smith, KM Beale, DW Towle, DA Schooley and PS Dickinson (2010). Identification of a calcitonin-like diuretic hormone that functions as an intrinsic modulator of the American lobster, Homarus americanus, cardiac neuromuscular system. Journal of Experimental Biology 213, 118-127.

*Stevens, JS., *CR. Cashman, CM. Smith, KM, Beale, DW. Towle, AE. Christie and PS. Dickinson (2009). The peptide hormone pQDLDHVFLRFamide (crustacean myosuppressin) modulates the Homarus americanus cardiac neuromuscular system at multiple sites. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212: 3961-76.

Stemmler, E.A., *Bruns, E.A., *Cashman, C.R., Dickinson, P.S., Christie, AE. (2009). Molecular and mass spectral identification of the broadly conserved decapod crustacean neuropeptide pQIRYHQCYFNPISCF: The first PISCF-allatostatin (Manduca sexta- or C-type allatostatin) from a non-insect. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 165(1):1-10.

Dickinson, P.S., *T. Wiwatpanit, *E.R. Gabranski, *R.J. Ackerman, *J.S. Stevens, *C.R. Cashman, E.A. Stemmler, and A.E. Christie. (2009). Identification of SYWKQCAFNAVSCFamide: a broadly conserved crustacean C-type allatostatin-like peptide with both neuromodulatory and cardioactive properties. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212:1140-52.

Dickinson, P.S. *E.E. Barton, E.A. Stemmler, *C.R. Cashman, *N.P. Gardner, *S. Rus, *H.R. Brennan, T.S. McClintock and A.E. Christie. (2009). Molecular, mass spectral, and physiological analyses of orcokinins and orcokinin precursor-related peptides in the lobster Homarus americanus and the crayfish Procambarus clarkii. Peptides: 30:297-317.

Christie, A.E., *C.R. Cashman, *J.S. Stevens, C.M. Smith, K.M. Beale, E.A. Stemmler, S.J. Greenwood, D.W. Towle, P.S. Dickinson. (2008). Identification and cardiotropic actions of brain/gut-derived tachykinin-related peptides (TRPs) from the American lobster Homarus americanus. Peptides, 29: 1909-18.

Dickinson, P.S., E.A. Stemmler, *C.R. Cashman, *H.R. Brennan, *R.J. Dennison, *K.E. Huber, *B. Peguero, *W. Rabacal, C.C. Goiney, C.M. Smith, D.W. Towle and A.E. Christie. (2008). SIFamide peptides in clawed lobsters and freshwater crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Astacidea): a combined molecular, mass spectrometric and electrophysiological investigation. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 156:347-360.

*Stevens, J.S., A.E. Christie, P.S. Dickinson. (2008). Complex modulation of Homarus americanus cardiac activity by the peptide hormone TNRNFLRFamide. MDIBL Bulletin 47: 82-85.

Dickinson, P.S., Stemmler, E.A., Christie, A.E. (2008). The pyloric neural circuit of the herbivorous crab Pugettia producta shows limited sensitivity to a number of neuromodulators that elicit robust effects in more opportunistically feeding decapods. J. Exp. Biol. 211:1434-47.

Thompson, R.R., Dickinson, P.S., Rose, J.D.1, *Dakin, K.A., *Civiello, G.M., *Segerdahl, A., and *Bartlett, R. (2008). Pheromones enhance somatosensory processing in newt brains through a vasotocin-dependent mechanism. Proc Roy Soc B, 275(1643):1685-93.

Christie, A.E., *Cashman, C.R., *Brennan, H.R., Ma, M., Sousa, G.L., Li, L., Stemmler, E.A., Dickinson, P.S. (2008). Identification of putative crustacean neuropeptides using in silico analyses of publicly accessible expressed sequence tags.  Gen Comp Endocrinol. 156:246-264. PMID: 18321503

Hsu, Y.W., Stemmler, E.A., Messinger, D.I., Dickinson, P.S., Christie, A.E., de la Iglesia, H.O. (2008). Cloning and differential expression of two beta-pigment-dispersing hormone (beta-PDH) isoforms in the crab Cancer productus: Evidence for authentic beta-PDH as a local neurotransmitter and beta-PDH II as a humoral factor. J. Comp Neurol. 508(2):197-211.

Christie, A.E., G. Sousa, *S. Rus, C. Smith, D. Towle, D. Hartline, P.S. Dickinson. (2008). Identification of A-type allatostatin isoforms possessing -YXFGI/Vamide carboxy-termini from the nervous system of the copepod crustacean Calanus finmarchicus, General and Comparative Endocrinology 155(3):526-533

Stemmler, E.A., *C.R. Cashman, D.I. Messinger, P.S. Dickinson and A.E. Christie. (2007). High mass resolution direct-tissue MALDI-FTMS reveals broad conservation of three neuropeptides (APSGFLGMRamide, GYRKPPFNGSIFamide and pQDLDHFLRFamide) across members of seven decapod crustacean infraorders. Peptides 28: 2104-2115 (Nove 2007)

Stemmler, E.A., Y.A. Hsu, *C.R. Cashman, D.I. Messigner, H.O. de la Iglesia, P.S. Dickinson and A.E. Christie. (2007). Direct tissue MALDI-FTMS profiling of individual Cancer productus sinus glands reveals that one of three distinct combinations of crustacean hyperglycemic hormone precursor-related peptide (CPRP) isoforms are present in individual crabs. General and Comparative Endocrinology 154: 187-192.

Patsy S. Dickinson, *Jake S. Stevens, *Szymon Rus, *Henry R. Brennan, Christopher C. Goiney, Christine M. Smith, Lingjun Li, David W. Towle and Andrew E. Christie (2007). Identification and cardiotropic actions of sulfakinin peptides in the American lobster Homarus americanus. Journal of Experimental Biology 210: 2278-89. doi: 12.1242/jeb.004770

Stemmler, Elizabeth A., *Emily A. Bruns, *Noah P. Gardner, Patsy S. Dickinson and Andrew E. Christie, (2007). Mass spectrometric identification of pEGFYSQRYamide: a crustacean peptide  hormone possessing a vertebrate neuropeptide Y (NPY)-like carboxy-terminus. General and Comparative Endocrinology 152:1-7.

Christie, Andrew E., *Szymon Rus, Christopher C. Goiney, Christine M. Smith, David W. Towle and Patsy S. Dickinson (2007). Identification and characterization of a cDNA encoding a crustin-like, putative antibacterial protein from the American lobster Homarus americanus. Molecular Immunology 44:3333-3337.

Christie, Andrew E., Kimberly K. Kutz-Naber, Elizabeth A. Stemmler, Alexandra Klein, Daniel I. Messinger, Christopher C. Goiney, *Anna J. Conterato, *Emily A. Bruns, Yun-Wei A. Hsu, Lingjun Li and Patsy S. Dickinson (2007). Midgut epithelial endocrine cells are a rich source of the neuropeptides APSGFLGMRamide (Cancer borealis tachykinin-related peptide Ia) and FYRKPPFNGSIFamide (Gly1 - SiIFamide) in the crabs Cancer borealis, Cancer magister and Cancer productus. Journal of Exp Biol. 210:699-714.

Elizabeth A. Stemmler, *Braulio Peguero, *Emily A. Bruns, Patsy S. Dickinson and Andrew E. Christie (2007). Identification, physiological actions, and distribution of TPSGFLGMRamide: a novel tachykinin-related peptide from the midgut and stomatogastric nervous system of Cancer crabs. Journal of Neurochemistry, 101:1351-1366.

Dickinson, P.S. (2006). Neuromodulation of central pattern generators in invertebrates and vertebrates. Current Opinion in Neurobiol. 16:604-614.

Stemmler, E.A. *Gardner, N.P. *Guiney, M.E., *Bruns, E.A., Dickinson, P.S. (2006). The detection of red pigment concentrating hormone (RPCH) in crustacean eyestalk tissues using Matrix Assisted Laser Desorrption/Ionization-Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometry: [M+Na] ion formation in dried droplet tissue preparations. J. Mass Spectrometry, 41:295-311.

Christie, A.E., Stemmler, E.A., *Peguero, B., Messinger, D.I., *Provencher, H.L., *Scheerlinck, P., Hsu, Y.-W.A., *Guiney, M., de la Iglesia, H., and Dickinson, P.S. (2006). Identification, Physiological Actions and Distribution of VYRKPPFNGSIFamide (Val1-SIFamide in the Stomatogastric Nervous System of the American Lobster Homarus americanus. J. Comp. Neurol. 49:406-21.

Zamer, William E. and Patsy S. Dickinson (2005). Skill Building: Peer Review, in  Integrate: Laboratory Manual for Physiology: A Benjamin Cummings Custom Edition, edited by Dee U. Silverthorn, Bruce R. Johnson, Alice C. Mills.

Stemmler, E.A., *Provencher, H.L., *Guiney, M.E., *Gardner, N.P., and Dickinson, P.S. (2005). Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization-Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometry for the identification of  orcokinin neuropeptides in crustaceans using metastable decay and Sustained Off-Resonance Irradiation. Analytical Chemistry. 77 (11):3594-606.

* denotes Bowdoin College student author

  • NSF Research Grant, BNS 9008816, 1990-1994
  • NSF Research Grant, BNS 9310003, 1993-1996
  • Human Frontier Science Project Grant (with others), 1991-1994
  • Human Frontier Science Project Grant (with others), 1994-1996
  • Whitehall Foundation Grant (with Amy Johnson), 1996-1999
  • NSF Research Grant, IBN 9723885, 1997-2000
  • NIH Fogarty Senior Fellowship, 1999-2000
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1999-2000
  • NSF Research Grant, IBN 0111040, 2001-2004

Adam Mortimer (2012) Localization of Homam CLDH and its effects on the cardiac central pattern generator in Homarus americanus

Rachel Schwemberger (2012) The rapid effects of water-soluble β-estradiol on retinal responses to light stimuli in male Carassius auratus

Anirudh Sreekrishnan (2012) Characterization of the Effects of Pyrokinin Peptides on the Cardiac Ganglion of Homarus americanus

Alexander Williams (2012) Modeling Excitatory Chemical Synapses in Rhythmic Neuronal Networks: A Computational Model Inspired by the Crustacean Cardiac Ganglion

 Jillian Berkman (2012) The Neuromodulatory Effects of SGRNFLRFamide on the Cardiac Ganglion of the Homarus americanus

Sienna Kurland (2012) Pyrokinin excites gastric mill neurons in the stomatogastric nervous system of the American lobster

Other interests

Music (cello), raising three children