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Sponsored by the OU President's Office, CBN, & the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Eve Marder

Eve Marder


Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience

Head, Division of Science, Brandeis University

National Academy of Sciences member



7 PM, Thursday, September 9, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua Ave., Norman, OK 73072

Why do animals do what they do?  What role does the nervous system play and how does it work?  These are questions asked by a branch of science known as neuroethology.  Neuroethologists seek to understand the relationship between the behavior of animals and their nervous systems.  The field encompasses a surprisingly wide range of research, from birdsong to love and bonding. 

A series of free public lectures by visiting scholars this fall at the Sam Noble Museum will shed light on the fascinating science of neuroethology.  The series is part of an OU Presidential Dream Course and is co-sponsored by the OU President’s Office, the Sam Noble Museum, and the OU Cellular and Behavioral Neurobiology Graduate Program.

The first lecture in the series is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, and will feature Eve Marder, the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience and chair of the Biology Department at Brandeis University.  Marder is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  Marder’s lecture will focus on how responses to changes in conditions can vary from individual to individual.

 “Every child knows that every human inhabiting our world is different, but most studies of the nervous system use methods in which data from many animals are pooled,” explained Marder. “In my talk I will employ neuronal networks found in crabs and lobsters to examine animal-to-animal variability and to provide insight into the mechanisms that give rise to individual-to-individual variation in responses to drugs and environmental change, namely warm temperatures.   These data show how important individual variability is for evolution.”

Marder is an internationally known neuroscientist and was recently President of the 40,000-member Society for Neuroscience. Her research has helped reveal how small networks of nerve cells (neurons) generate a wide variety of movements in lobsters and crabs.  Work in her laboratory demonstrated that networks are not “hard-wired” but instead can be chemically modified to produce different outputs when circumstances change. Marder was one of the first neurophysiologists to forge long-standing collaborations with theorists. For more than 15 years, she has combined experimental work with insights from computer simulations of neuronal network operation. Her laboratory has also developed the use of computer-animal hybrid networks to study the effect of each neuron and each parameter rigorously. Most recently, she is studying the extent to which networks having quite different parameters can generate surprisingly similar outputs, which may help animals maintain critical functions even when their networks are altered in development or injured. This work allows detailed study of nervous system variation in normal healthy animals, variation that is often ignored in studies that average results from many individuals.