Marc Wolman

Marc Wolman
Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology
(608) 890-1962


Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lab Website:

Research Focus:

Genetic basis of behavior, neural circuit formation and function

Research Strength:

Behavior, Cognition and Emotion

Development, Plasticity, and Repair

Molecular Neuroscience

Neuronal Circuits

Research Description:

Animals constantly update their behavior by integrating current sensory input with information stored from previous experience. Therefore, appropriate behavior is contingent upon the nervous system’s ability to learn and recall memory. All animals exploit a fundamental mechanism of learning, called habituation, to filter irrelevant sensory input and prioritize attention. Habituation is observed by a progressive response decline to repeatedly experienced, yet inconsequential stimuli. Habituation deficits represent hallmark features of human behavioral disorders, including schizophrenia, addiction, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Despite habituation’s biological conservation and clinical relevance, our understanding of the genetic mechanisms underlying habituation is limited. The goals of our research are to identify and understand the genes that govern how neural circuits regulate habituation.

To identify genes critical for habituation, I performed a forward genetic screen in zebrafish and identified mutants with specific defects in habituation of the highly conserved acoustic startle response. These mutants represent the first vertebrate mutants isolated based solely on a learning deficiency and provide unique inroads to the genetic basis of habituation learning. Our current work combines mutant analysis with genetic and pharmacological manipulations, imaging of neural circuits, and high throughput behavioral analyses to dissect the genetic and neural basis of habituation learning. This work will provide unique insight into the genetic mechanisms underlying learning so that we may better understand cognitive disorders marked by habituation deficits.


Please see PubMed for most recent publications