Renee Miller

Greg DeAngelis

Contact Information

  • Meliora 106
  • Brain & Cognitive Sciences
  • University of Rochester
  • Rochester, NY 14627-0268
  • (585) 276-4024 (office)
  • 585-275-7915 (lab)

Office Hours

Monday 1-3pm

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Research Description

wormI'm interested in how the brain generates sex differences in behavior and disease susceptibility. It's obvious to the casual observer that males and females of ALL species will often choose distinct behavioral outputs when confronted with the same situation or stimulus. Is one behavior choice more adaptive for one sex than the other? Does learning influence behavior choices that have been optimized for maximal fitness in each sex? What are the cellular and molecular determinants of sex differences in brains and behaviors? These are some of the questions that my research in Dr. Doug Portman's lab in the Department of Biomedical Genetics addresses.

In our research we use the model organism C. elegans, a free-living soil based roundworm. Dr. Portman's lab uses several approaches, including a novel technique to sex-reverse the nervous system of our worms, to study the above questions. Former students and post-docs in the lab have investigated sex differences in olfaction and locomotion. Currently, we are working on understanding a sex difference in exploration. Males explore to a much greater extent than do hermaphrodites in this species. We find that the difference in exploration can be traced to a single gene product, expressed in a single pair of sensory neurons in C. elegans hermaphrodites. Forcing the expression of this gene in males, or sex reversing the nervous system can lead to hermaphrodite-like behavior in male worms. We are currently investigating the link between this gene and food sensation as well as what kind of evolutionary advantage this sex difference confers upon C. elegans males.

Additional projects that I am working on in Dr. Portman's lab, with the help of two talented undergraduate students, Teigan Ruster and Andy Spitzberg, include sex differences in neuropeptide signaling and sex differences in the dauer alternate life stage decision. All of these projects ultimately help us to understand how sex differences in the brain are generated and regulated, what the physical substrates of the differences are, and how such differences interact with environmental stimuli to produce unique behavioral outputs and differential disease susceptibility.

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Courses

Undergraduate

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Book


Book

RM Miller. Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team? Xlibris Press, May 31, 2013. ASIN: B00D75PX1G

Blog

Fantasy sports and how neuroscience can help you win

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