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Lisa Stowers (Scripps Research): Leveraging olfaction to study social behavior in the mouse

Lisa Stowers
December 2, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Stanford Neurosciences Building Gunn Rotunda (E241) & via Zoom

Free and open to members of the Stanford community

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Dr. Stowers will be presenting her talk in person at Gunn Rotunda. We welcome you to join us at 11:30 am for coffee, cookies and conversation before the seminar.

The talk will also be live-streamed via Zoom.

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Lisa Stowers, PhD

Molecular and Cellular Neurosciences
Scripps Research


Andrea Yung (Krasnow Lab)


Courtship behavior requires functioning of a variety of neural computations including sensation, interoception, learning, and memory. How and where these functions alter behavior is largely unknown. The Stowers lab is leveraging the ability of specialized olfactory cues, pheromones, to specifically activate and therefore identify and study courtship circuits in the mouse. We are interested in identifying general circuit principles (specific brain nodes and information flow) that are common to all individuals, and to additionally study how experience, gender, age, and internal state modulate and personalize behavior. We are solving the structure and logic of two complete sensory to motor courtship circuits to compare and contrast their strategies of how the brain generates innate behavior.


Dr. Stowers obtained her PhD at Harvard University in 1997. She then joined Catherine Dulac’s lab as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Post-doctoral Fellow to undertake the study of how the brain translates odor sensation into fundamental social and survival behavior. In 2002 she began independent work at Scripps Research where she remains today as a Professor of Neuroscience. Her lab aims to understand basic rules of how the brain works to survey both the environment and immediate internal needs to decide appropriate behavior. The Stowers Lab is focusing on natural, innate animal social behavior that is highly conserved across species such as courtship, rage, fear, and newborn-parent interactions. In this model, the state of the mind of an animal is easier to interpret and the brain mechanisms and function are accessible to scientific testing. Moreover, this research strategy provides a window into most aspects of brain function. To trigger social behavior the brain must engage computations such as learning and memory, sensory coding, motivation, sexual dimorphism, age-related changes, and integrate internal state needs such as hunger or sleepiness. The Stowers’ group is using the platform of innate social behavior to understand these important features of general coding logic to explain how the brain works. She has been a finalist for the Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology; and named a Pew Scholar and Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar in Neuroscience.

Curriculum Vitae

Related Papers

[1] Keller, J. A., Chen, J., Simpson, S., Wang, E. H.-J., Lilascharoen, V., George, O., Lim, B. K., & Stowers, L. (2018). Voluntary urination control by brainstem neurons that relax the urethral sphincter. Nature Neuroscience, 21(9), 1229–1238.

[2] Chen, J., Markowitz, J. E., Lilascharoen, V., Taylor, S., Sheurpukdi, P., Keller, J. A., Jensen, J. R., Lim, B. K., Datta, S. R., & Stowers, L. (2021). Flexible scaling and persistence of social vocal communication. Nature, 593(7857), 108–113.

Event Sponsor: 
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
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