The PRCEN Phase II assembles a diverse group of investigators and students dedicated to exploring the impact of anthropogenic environmental degradation on nervous systems at the structural, physiological, and behavioral levels. The response of organisms to environmental perturbations will help in predicting and reducing the impact of these perturbations or implementing measures to aid the resilience of organisms in the environment. Examining nervous systems may play pivotal roles in both strategies: first, predicting impact is possible because stimulus-response relations can be linked causally and in mechanistic detail, and second, resilience to perturbation is partly based on plasticity at structural, physiological, and behavioral levels.


Responses of nervous systems to environmental degradation will be examined in three subprojects partitioned according to tropical habitats:

                                    1) Marine and Estuaries

                                    2) Rivers and Freshwater

                                    3) Terrestrial

Three objectives that encompass the subprojects will identify nervous system responses that will improve risk prediction or develop resilience strategies to diverse environmental stressors.

These Specific Aims will:

  1. assess effects of environmental contaminants on nervous system structure and function

  2. determine impacts of climatic variation on the molecular and cell biology of neurons

  3. investigate the impact of anthropogenic stimuli on sensory systems and behavior

The PRCEN seeks to detect such effects as neural or behavioral measures. In PRCEN Phase II, we will take advantage of the simple nervous systems of organisms that live in the marine, aquatic and terrestrial environments as sensitive detectors of change. In the long term, we expect to establish the use of neural-behavioral effects for improved accuracy and speed in evaluating the environmental impact of human activities.