Welcome to the Hallem lab at UCLA!

Both free-living and parasitic animals are capable of detecting and responding to sensory cues present in their environments.  We are interested in understanding the neural basis of sensory behaviors. We are also interested in how sensory neural circuits can evolve in species with different lifestyles and ecological niches to mediate species-specific behaviors. We use both parasitic nematodes and the free-living nematode C. elegans as model systems.

A major focus of the lab is on the neurobiology of host-seeking behavior in parasitic nematodes. We are interested in the behavioral responses of parasitic nematodes to host-emitted sensory cues, and in the neural circuits and signaling pathways that underlie these responses. We are also interested in how parasitic nervous systems have evolved to mediate specific parasite-host interactions.

We study the responses of C. elegans to the same sensory cues to better understand how the nervous system of a parasitic animal differs from that of a free-living animal. By comparing the responses of C. elegans to those of other nematode species, which have similar neuroanatomy but very different behavioral repertoires, we hope to gain insight into the specific features of a neural circuit that determine its behavioral output. We also use C. elegans as a model system for understanding the context-dependent modulation of sensory behaviors.

Positions in the lab are available!  Please visit the Positions tab if you are interested in joining the lab.