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John Phillips, PhD
Magnetic Compass Sense of Laboratory Rodents: Working at the Interface of Quantum Chemistry and Spatial Cognition
Professor of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016
Dr. Phillips’s laboratory uses behavioral techniques to investigate the role of magnetic cues in the spatial behavior of a variety of animals—including rodents—and the possibility that the magnetic “compass” is mediated by a light-dependent radical pair reaction involving a specialized class of photopigments known as cryptochromes. Recent findings indicate that C57BL/6 mice tested in electromagnetic-interference-and-radio-frequencyinterference-shielded facilities readily use magnetic cues in nest-building and water-maze tasks. These and related findings suggest that magnetic cues may play a fundamental and previously unrecognized role in rodent spatial behavior and cognition, with implications for the use of rodent models in biomedical research.
About the Speaker:
Dr. John Phillips is a professor of biological sciences in the College of Science at Virginia Tech. The primary focus of his research is the neural basis of behavior, with major interests in magnetoreception (molecular, biophysical, and neurophysiological mechanisms, as well as functional mapping of neural pathways); orientation and navigation (including magnetic and olfactory navigation and cue integration); spatial cognition (water maze behavior); and sexual selection (sensory exploitation). Dr. Phillips earned his bachelor’s degree at Swarthmore College and his doctorate at Cornell University before undertaking a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University.