Andrew Dacks, Ph.D.
From day to day, we repeatedly encounter the same stimuli, yet our responses to these stimuli often differ. This occurs because the context in which our brain processes information is in constant flux. Internal factors, like our level of hunger or age, and external factors, like the time of day or ambient temperature, change the relative importance of different sensory cues. The nervous system must integrate these contexts to alter our behavior thus establishing a “physiological” or “internal state” that manifests itself as changes in how our brain processes information from one moment to the next.
Dr. Dacks' research focuses on the mechanisms that allow the nervous system to modify sensory processing and motor output depending on the current internal state. Dacks uses invertebrate models because of the numerical simplicity of their nervous system, their robustness as experimental subjects and their astonishing behavioral diversity. Using molecular, anatomical, electrophysiological and behavioral techniques, I examine the mechanisms by which the internal state of an animal alters brain function and how these mechanisms have changed over evolutionary time.