• National Drosophila award winning image, Courtesy of Craig Montell

Molecular, Cellular and Circuit Mechanisms Controlling Behavior

Complex behaviors, including decision making and motor sequences are controlled by sensory input, the internal state, past experience and social interactions. Research in this area exploit model organisms from flies to mice to unravel the mechanisms underlying animal behavior.


Affiliated Faculty

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Psychological & Brain Sciences

 The overarching goal of my research is to better understand how the mammalian neocortex processes and stores incoming sensory information.

Psychological & Brain Sciences

Research interests: neural circuits and computations involved in reward learning and decision-making

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Research interests: Systems Neuroscience, Computational Neuroscience and Molecular, Cellular, and Circuit Mechanisms Controlling Behavior.

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

The main goal of our research is to understand how navigational behavior comes about in terms of neural-circuit computation. By combining behavioral quantification, functional analysis and computational modeling, we seek to unravel structure-function relationships between neural circuits, sensory coding and adaptive decision-making. 


Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

A central question in neurobiology is defining the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which animals translate sensory input into behavioral outputs.


Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

How does the brain control behavior?  We study the neural circuits that organize a flexible sequence of movements that remove dust from fruit flies.  Drosophila grooming behavior is a rich model for understanding how sensory inputs modify motor programs.  We use approaches from genetics, optogenetics, neuroethology and machine vision, and functional imaging of neural activity to decipher the logic and implementation of behavior sequences.  

Electrical and Computer Engineering

The lab of Spencer LaVere Smith (slslab.org) is investigating neural circuitry in action using novel instrumentation. One half of the lab is neuroengineering new instrumentation for measuring and manipulating neural activity. The other half of the lab is using the technology to perform experiments and gain insights into how neural circuitry processes stimuli and drives adaptive behavior.

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Psychological & Brain Sciences

Dr. Smith joined the UCSB faculty in 2018. Her lab will investigate the functional role of neural dendrites in synaptic computations.