Welcome to the Hallem lab at UCLA!

Nearly all animals are capable of detecting and responding to sensory cues present in their environments.  We study the neural basis of sensory behaviors, with a primary focus on sensory behaviors in the context of human parasitism. We use both parasitic and free-living nematodes as model systems. The overall goals of our research are to understand how parasitic worms use sensory cues to locate hosts to infect, how sensory circuits generate context-appropriate behaviors, and how sensory circuits evolve to enable species-specific behaviors.

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 them. 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 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.