Name: Leslie P. Tolbert
Degree(s): A.B. (Applied Mathematics) 1973, Ph.D. (Anatomy) 1978
Graduate School: Harvard University
Undergraduate Institution: Radcliffe College/Harvard University
Current Position/Univ.: Professor of Neurobiology, and Chair of the campus-wide Committee on Neuroscience, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Research Interest(s): My laboratory colleagues and I are interested in how the brain develops, and specifically how cells, both neurons and the non-neuronal cells called glial cells, instruct each others development. We use an unusual experimental preparation, the metamorphosing nervous system of a giant moth, to probe these issues. During the development of the moth nervous system (which replaces the caterpillar nervous system during metamorphosis), we can readily perturb particular cells and particular molecular pathways to study their effects on the development of the olfactory (smell) centers in the brain. In fact, we can do experiments in a developing moth that cant be done in developing mammals. Our studies have revealed a critical two-way conversation that occurs between sensory neurons and glial cells as well as between glial cells and neurons higher in the olfactory pathway. Given the cellular similarity between insect olfactory systems and those of mammals, we expect that our findings will provide special insights into mammalian development.

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