Location: Bowdoin / Patsy S. Dickinson


Patsy Dickinson

Josiah Little Professor of Natural Sciences

Contact Information


Adams Hall - 403

Teaching this 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
  • Post-doctoral research, Laboratoire de Neurobiologie Comparée, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université de Bordeaux I, Arcachon, France, 1979-1981

Teaching Area

  • Physiology and Neuroscience

Research Statement

The goal of my research is understanding the mechanisms that underlie the ability of the nervous system to generate flexibility in patterned movements. Many activities, such as breathing and locomotion, require repeated patterns of movement. These rhythmic movements are controlled by neural circuits that are "hard-wired", but are nonetheless able to generate multiple outputs, thereby allowing the same network to control multiple versions of a behavior, for example, running and walking. My lab uses two simple neural circuits in the lobster as a model system in which to examine the physiological and molecular mechanisms that drive this flexibility. We use a range of techniques, including physiological recordings of neuronal activity, recordings of heart contractions, immunohistochemistry, and some molecular techniques.

Dickinson PS, Armstrong MK, Dickinson ES, Fernandez R, Miller A, Pong S, Powers B, Pupo Wiss A, Stanhope ME, Walsh PJ, Wiwatpanit T, Christie AE. (2018). Three members of a peptide family are differentially distributed and elicit differential state-dependent responses in a pattern generator-effector system. J Neurophysiol.119:1767-1781.

Christie AE, Miller A, Fernandez R, Dickinson ES, Jordan A, Kohn J, Youn MC, and Dickinson PS. (2018). Non-amidated and amidated members of the C-type allatostatin (AST-C) family are differentially distributed in the stomatogastric nervous system of the American lobster, Homarus americanus. Invertebrate Neuroscience 18: 2.

Christie AE, Roncalli V, Cieslak MC, Pascual MG, Yu A, Lameyer TJ, Stanhope ME, Dickinson PS. (2017). Prediction of a neuropeptidome for the eyestalk ganglia of the lobster Homarus americanus using a tissue-specific de novo assembled transcriptome. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 243:96-119.

Dickinson PS, Qu,X, Stanhope, M. (2016). Neuropeptide modulation of pattern-generating systems in crustaceans: Comparative studies and approaches. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 41:149-157.
Dickinson, ES, AS Johnson, O Ellers, PS Dickinson. (2016). Forces generated during stretch in the heart of the lobster Homarus americanus are anisotropic and are altered by neuromodulators. J Exp Biol. 219:1187-202.

Christie, AE, Chi, M, Lameyer, TJ, Pascual, MG, Shea, DN, Stanhope, ME, Schulz, DJ, Dickinson, PS (2015). Neuropeptidergic signaling in the American lobster Homarus americanus: New insights from high-throughput nucleotide sequencing. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0145964. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0145964

Dickinson PS, Kurland SC, Qu X, *Parker BO, Sreekrishnan A, Kwiatkowski MA, Williams AH, Ysasi AB, Christie AE. (2015). Distinct or shared actions of peptide family isoforms: II. Multiple pyrokinins exert similar effects in the lobster stomatogastric nervous system. J Exp Biol. 218:2905-2917

Dickinson PS, Sreekrishnan A, Kwiatkowski MA, Christie AE. (2015). Distinct or shared actions of peptide family isoforms: I. Peptide-specific actions of pyrokinins in the lobster cardiac neuromuscular system. J Exp Biol. 218:2892-2904

Dickinson PS, Calkins A and Stevens JS. (2015). Related neuropeptides use different balances of unitary mechanisms to modulate the cardiac neuromuscular system in the American lobster, Homarus americanus. J. Neurophysiology 113(3):856-70.

Williams AH, Calkins A, O'Leary T, Symonds R, Marder E, Dickinson PS. 2013. The neuromuscular transform of the lobster cardiac system explains the opposing effects of a neuromodulator on muscle output. J Neurosci 33(42):16565-75.

Stemmler EA, Barton EE, Esonu OK, Polasky DA, Onderko LL, Bergeron AB, Christie AE, Dickinson PS. (2013). C-terminal methylation of truncated neuropeptides: an enzyme-assisted extraction artifact involving methanol. Peptides 46:108-25.

Williams, AH, Kwiatkowski, MA, Mortimer, AL, Marder, E, Zeeman, ML and Dickinson, PS. (2013). Animal-to-animal variability in the phasing of the crustacean cardiac motor pattern: an experimental and computational analysis. J. Neurophysiology 109:2451-2465.

Kwiatkowski, MA, Gabranski, ER, Huber, KE, Chapline, MC, Christie, AE and Dickinson, PS. (2013). Coordination of distinct but interacting rhythmic motor programs by a modulatory projection neuron using different co-transmitters in different ganglia. Journal of Experimental Biology 216:1827-1836.

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, 215:2308-2318.

Christie AE, Stemmler EA, Dickinson PS (2010). Crustacean neuropeptides. Cell Mol Life Sci. 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.

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