Mammalian social behaviors change dramatically over the lifespan: infants rely on their mothers for food and warmth, adolescents engage each other in social play, and adults mate and parent. These highly conserved social niche dynamics involve changing motivational drives and behavioral repertoires, and co-occur alongside rapid changes in brain organization. However, it remains unclear how developmental changes in behavior result from transformations of the underlying brain circuits.
As a postdoctoral fellow in Catherine Dulac’s lab, Harris Kaplan is tracking developmental transitions in mammalian brain and behavior. Focusing on the hypothalamus, he is charting the emergence of transcriptional cell-type identities, spontaneous and stimulus-evoked neuronal activity patterns, and corresponding changes in mouse behavior. Along with manipulations of the mouse’s sensory and social rearing environment, this work will provide novel insights into how developmental processes build animal behavior. For this work, Harris was designated HHMI Fellow of the Jane Coffin Childs Fund. He received his Ph. D. working in Manuel Zimmer’s lab at the IMP in Vienna, Austria, where he delineated local and global neuronal dynamics governing C. elegans locomotory behaviors.