Wesleyan portrait of Krista  Perks

Krista Perks

Visiting Assistant Professor, Neuroscience and Behavior

Shanklin Laboratory, 409

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

Shanklin Laboratory, 409

kperks@wesleyan.edu

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BA Wesleyan University
MA Wesleyan University
PHD University of California San D

Krista Perks

One of my favorite things about having pursued Neuroscience Research is the breadth of specializations that I have gained: from electrical engineering, to computer science, to neurophysiology techniques.  In my work I blend all of these interests and specialties into interactive classroom and research environments for students.  

Some current areas of research:

1. Social Coordination in Weakly Electric Fish

How does the brain of individuals coordinate across groups to mediate social interaction? Weakly electric fish are unique among the animal kingdom in that much of their social communication relies on their ability to generate and detect weak electric fields. This communication regime (termed electrocommunication) is analogous to vocal communication in many ways, but instead of emitting sound waves, these fish emit electric fields. Electrocommunication is likely the most rapid form of communication — electric fields are instantaneous and do not need to propagate through space. Furthermore, electrical communication signals faithfully reflect underlying neural command signals, not being subject to distortion as are vocalizations travelling through air. The waveform shape of the pulsed electric field generated by each fish is extremely stereotyped and conveys information about species, individual, and sexual identity. In contrast, the time between pulses (inter-pulse-interval) is highly variable within individuals and across time. We know that the pattern of pulses emitted by each fish are used to drive social interactions and that fish can coordinate the timing of their pulses with each other, which is thought to play a variety of key social functions, particularly during territorial aggression, courtship, mating, and group hunting. How does the patterning of electrocommunication signals among a group of fish reflect and mediate their social organization, and how does the brain coordinate this motor behavior across a group?

 

2. Pedagogy

How do lecturer-centric classroom organizations versus student-centric classrooms effect student and teacher outcomes?

 

3. Classroom DIY

Developing DIY tools that develop student understanding of core concepts in Neurobiology through "play." Developing open-source tools to enable students to explore concepts through the exploration of data and computational models. 

I originally fell in love with Neuroscience as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University through both coursework and research. Independent research with Dr. David Bodznick on cerebellum-like structures in the skate hindbrain led to an MA during a fifth year at Wesleyan. This foundation set me up for completing a PhD at UCSD working on the neural processing of vocal communication signals in songbirds. Through a postdoctoral appointment at Columbia University I have integrated my interests in communication, movement, and sensory processing with the study of electrosensory processing in weakly electric mormyrid fish. 

My non-scientific research life mainly focuses on aerial circus acrobatics, rock climbing, and backpacking/camping. 

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Advising Thursdays 11-12 (by appointment) Office/Zoom

BIOL254 Thursday 12-1 Office/Zoom

BIOL247 Tuesday 1:30-2:30 HA290/Zoom; Tuesday 2:30-3:30 HA290/Zoom

Courses

Fall 2022
BIOL 247 - 01
Lab in Neurophysiology

BIOL 254 - 01
Animal Behavior

Spring 2023
BIOL 254 - 01
Animal Behavior

BIOL 358 - 02
Motor Systems