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Thomas Preuss, Ph.D.

One of our goals is to uncover how social stress influences sensorimotor integration in the CNS. For that we study the sensorimotor gating phenomenon prepulse inhibition (PPI), which regulates sensory flow during early stages of information processing. Deficits in PPI are implicated in several information processing disorders, including schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. Indeed, the magnitude of PPI is remarkably sensitive to factors affecting physiological state, such as psychosocial stress. However, the neural mechanisms that underlie such state-dependent modulation of PPI are largely unknown. We study PPI in the startle circuit of African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, a species where social stressors are a product of naturalistic interactions among conspecifics, which can be readily observed, quantified, and manipulated in the lab. Moreover, the startle circuit itself is remarkable in that individual neurons and their connections are identifiable which allows insights from multiple levels of biological organization: behavior, in vivo electrophysiology, pharmacology, and single cell molecular biology.

Representative Publications

Curtin P, Medan V, Neumeister H., Bronson D, and Preuss T (2013) The 5-HT5A receptor regulates excitability in the auditory startle circuit: functional implications for sensorimotor gating. J Neuroscience 33:10011-20.

Medan V and Preuss T. (2011) Dopaminergic induced changes in Mauthner-cell excitability disrupts prepulse inhibition in the startle circuit of goldfish. J Neurophysiol 106:3195-204.

Whitaker KW, Neumeister H, Huffman LS, Kidd CE, Preuss T* and Hofmann HA* [*shared last authorship] (2011) Serotonergic modulation of startle-escape plasticity in an African cichlid fish: a single-cell molecular and physiological analysis of a vital neural circuit. J Neurophysiol 106:127-37.

Neumeister H, Whitaker KW, Hofmann HA* and Preuss T* [*shared last authorship] (2010) Social and ecological regulation of a decision-making circuit J Neurophysiol 104:3180-8.