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Thomas Preuss

Ph.D., Dept. of Biological Cybernetics, University of Tübingen, Germany

Department of Psychology
Hunter College, Room 626A - HN
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Tel: (212) 396-6358
Fax:(212) 772-5620

Preuss Lab Site


Current Areas of Research

Research in the lab focuses on mechanistic questions of neural decision-making and plasticity in sensorimotor systems. Specifically, we are studying how the environment modifies the expression of adaptive behaviors at the level of individual neurons.

For this purpose, we use the Mauthner cell system of teleost fish, which mediates the startle escape behavior. This system is remarkable in that individual neurons and their connections are identifiable and can be investigated in vivo at the synaptic, cellular, and network levels. Moreover, the neural activity of these neurons can be directly linked to distinct aspects of the behavior, a rare opportunity in the vertebrate brain. In short, we study the neural basis of behavior and its modification at multiple levels of biological organization, from molecules to motor action.

We employ a wide range of approaches including: high-speed video analysis of behavior, in vivo electrophysiology, neuroanatomy, immunohistochemistry, and neuropharmacology.  Most recently, we also use the Mauthner-cell system as an identifiable target for single-cell molecular biology.


Current projects focus on the Mauthner-cell escape system and include:

I. To determine the neural mechanisms that underlie the sensory filtering phenomenon prepulse inhibition (PPI)

II. The social and ecological regulation of startle escape decisions in African cichlid fish

III. Dendritic integration of complex visual and auditory stimuli and decision computation in the Mauthner neuron

    Selected Publications

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

    Mirjany M, Preuss T* and Faber DS* (*shared last authorship). Role of the lateral line mechanosensory system in directionality of goldfish auditory evoked escape response. J Exp Biol 214:3358267, 2011.

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

    Neumeister H, Whitaker KW, Hofmann HA* and Preuss T* (*shared last authorship). Social and ecological regulation of a decision-making circuit. J Neurophysiol 104:3180-88, 2010.

    Weiss SA, Preuss T* and Faber DS* (*shared last authorship). Phase encoding in the Mauthner system: implications in left-right sound source discrimination. J Neurosci 29:3431-4, 2009.

    Szabo T, Preuss T  and Faber DS. Effects of temperature acclimation on a central neural circuit and its behavioral output. J Neurophysiol 100:2997-3008, 2008.

    Weiss SA, Preuss T and Faber DS. A role of electrical inhibition in sensorimotor integration. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:18047-52, 2008.

    Neumeister H, Szabo TM and Preuss T. Behavioral and physiological characterization of sensorimotor-gating in the goldfish startle response. J Neurophysiol 99:1493-502, 2008.

    Weiss SA, Zottoli SJ, Do SC, Faber DS and Preuss T. Correlation of C-start behaviors with neural activity recorded from the hindbrain in free-swimming goldfish (Carassius auratus). J Exp Biol 209:4788-801, 2006.

    Szabo TM, Weiss SA, Faber DS and Preuss T. Representation of auditory signals in the M-cell: role of electrical synapses. J Neurophysiol 95:2617-29, 2006.

    Preuss T, Osei-Bonsu PE, Weiss SA, Wang C, and Faber DS. Neural representation of object approach in  a decision-making motor circuit. J Neurosci 26:3454-64, 2006.

    Preuss T, and Faber DS. Central cellular mechanisms underlying temperature-dependent changes in the goldfish startle-escape behavior. J Neurosci 23: 5617-26, 2003.

    Preuss T and Gilly WF. Role of prey-capture experience on development of the escape response in the squid Loligo opalescens: a physiological correlate in an identified neuron. J Exp Biol 203: 559-65, 2000.

    Neumeister H, Ripley B, Preuss T and Gilly WF. Effects of temperature on escape jetting in the squid Loligo opalescens. J Exp Biol 203:547-57, 2000.