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Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2004

Olfaction; audition; communication behaviors; in vivo electrophysiology; individual recognition

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Shea2013 I study the neural circuitry of social communication and decisions. My laboratory’s efforts are directed at answering a number of related questions such as: What are the neural mechanisms for interpreting social information and selecting appropriate behaviors?  How do we discriminate and remember familiar individuals?  How do emotion and social context shape our attention and memories? And how are social cues from our various senses integrated to shape behavioral decisions?

In my lab, we directly address these questions using natural social communication behavior in mice.  Mice communicate extensively with mates and kin using chiefly olfactory and auditory signals, which makes them a convenient organism for studies of multimodal detection and integration of social cues.  Importantly, the choice of mice as a model system also allows us to use powerful genetic technologies to expand our toolbox as systems neuroscientists, and in the future, to assess corresponding dysfunctions of neural circuitry and communication behavior in mouse models of human diseases such as autism. We employ a combination of behavior, in vivo electrophysiology, including experiments in behaving mice, and viral/optogenetic methods.

Succinctly, our long-term goal is to anatomically and physiologically trace complete neural circuits that mediate social decision arcs from the initial detection of social cues, to the processing and storage of these cues, and ultimately on to the selection of a behavioral response.

Selected Publications

Shea, S.D., Koch, H., Baleckaitis, D.D., Ramirez, J.M., and Margoliash, D. 2010. Neuron-specific cholinergic modulation of a forebrain song control nucleus.  J. Neurophys. 103: 733–745.


Shea, S.D., Katz, L.C., and Mooney, R. 2008. Noradrenergic induction of odor-specific neural habituation and olfactory memories. J Neurosci. 28: 10711-10719.

Lin, D.Y., Shea, S.D., and Katz, L.C. 2006. Representation of natural stimuli in the rodent main olfactory bulb. Neuron 50: 937-949.