Associate Professor of Biology

B.A. - Amherst College
Ph.D. - Northwestern University

Phone - 434-284-0543
Fax - 540-568-3333
Office - Bioscience 2028H

Office Hours

Courses:   Human Physiology (BIO 270), Animal Physiology (BIO 370), Neurobiology (BIO 445)

Research Interests:  Neurobiology of Spatial Sensorimotor Integration

Imagine a not-so-friendly bug walking up your leg. Fortunately, touch sensory receptors in your skin signal the central nervous system about the presence – and importantly – the location of the bug. The CNS then integrates the sensory information into a motor plan that allows to you to deftly sway the bug away with your hand. Similarly, if you touch a hot pan on the stove you need the location of the heat in order to determine which direction to move your hand.

The overall goal of our research is to understand the strategies and mechanisms by which spatial sensory information is used by the nervous system to plan movement. As with most neuroscience research, we attack the problem using simple models systems – the nociceptive withdrawal response (NWR) in the rat and escape response in insects and spiders. In most of our experiments we inflict an aversive stimulus on the animal (for example, propel a ball at a cricket or heat the paw of rat) which results in a rapid escape or withdrawal. We then change the location or direction of the stimulus and ask our key question – how does location influence the response direction and magnitude. Currently we use diverse techniques - behavioral (high speed video at up to 2000 frames/second), electrophysiological (recording muscle activity), computational and computer simulations. Our results will help us to understand the strategies by which animals use sensory information to plan movements. In the rat, improved understanding of the neural strategies may lead improvement in the treatment of spinal cord injury and brain-machine interfaces for movement control.

Cleland, C.L., Esquivel, C.E., Davis, H.T. (2017) The Nociceptive Withdrawal Response of the Foot in the Spinalized Rat Exhibits Limited Dependence on Stimulus Location, submitted to Experimental Brain Research

Wheeler M.A., Heffner D.L., Kim S., Cleland C.L., Deppmann C.D. (2014) TNFα and TNFR1 signaling regulates the structure and function of nociceptive circuits. Neuron, 82:587-602

Cleland, C.L. and *Bauer, R.E. (2002) Spatial transformations in the withdrawal response of the tail in intact and spinalized rats. Journal of Neuroscence -Rapid Communications, 22:5265-5270

Cleland, C.L. (2002) Integrating recent advances in neuroscience into undergraduate neuroscience and physiology classes. Advances in Physiological Education, 26:271-277.

Silva, E., Cleland, C.L. and Gebhart, G.F. (1997) Contributions of NMDA receptors to mustard oil induced hyperalgesia in the spinalized rat, Experimental Brain Research, 117:379-388

Jiang, M.C., Cleland, C.L. and Gebhart, G.F. (1995) Cellular properties of dorsal horn neurons in vivo. Journal of Neurophysiology, 74:1819-1827

*undergraduate co-author

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