Richmond Thompson

Affiliation: Neuroscience, Psychology
Barry N. Wish Professor of Social Sciences, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Director of Neuroscience Program

Work in my lab explores how steroid hormones and neuropeptides in the vasopressin / oxytocin family influence social behavior in vertebrates. Primarily, we want to learn how and where within the brain these molecules act to influence interactions between individuals, particularly in reproductive contexts. Although I have worked with numerous species across broad vertebrate groups, current work focuses on goldfish and zebrafish, two closely related, highly social teleosts. We examine the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which androgens and estrogens, as well as the neuropeptide vasotocin, affect behavioral and brain responses to sensory cues that elicit different types of social output, from courtship to aggression to withdrawal. More specifically, we are investigating the mechanisms through which testosterone and estradiol rapidly modulate early stages of visual and olfactory sensory processing. We are also characterizing the neural circuits through which vasotocin, the ancestral homologue of vasopressin, promotes context-dependent social withdrawal in male goldfish, as well as the receptor mechanisms that underlie its ability to have different behavioral effects in different social contexts. A complimentary line of research explores how vasopressin modulates social perceptions in humans, and through a collaboration with a colleague at Emory University, where within our own brains it produces such influences.

Ultimately, we hope to:

  1. characterize steroid and neuropeptide mechanisms that evolved to help different species solve social challenges associated with their unique life histories, and
  2. identify molecular, cellular, and anatomical similarities in how these molecules work across species that represent the fundamental principles through which brain neurochemistry affects social behavior in vertebrates.

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Richmond Thompson

Education

  • BS, Biology, Psychology double major, Furman University, 1989
  • PhD, Biopsychology, Cornell University, 1996
  • Postdoctoral Experience: Zoology Dept, Oregon State, 1996-1999