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Robert Hawkins

Robert Hawkins, Ph.D.

Professor, Neuroscience, Psychiatry

NYSPI, Unit 13
Tel +1 212-543-5244

Area of Research

Synapses & Circuits, Neurobiology of Learning & Memory


Cellular and behavioral studies of associative and nonassociative learning in Aplysia and long-term potentiation in the mammalian hippocampus


We are investigating cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in two experimental systems: the gill- and siphon-withdrawal reflex in Aplysia, and long-term potentiation in mammalian hippocampus. We are also exploring possible relationships between the mechanisms in these two systems.

Our studies in Aplysia have focused on two simple forms of learning: sensitization and classical conditioning. We use electrophysiological, histochemical, and biochemical methods to investigate cellular mechanisms of these forms of learning in the isolated nervous system and in cell culture. We also study learning behaviorally in whole animals and in dissected preparations in which it is possible to relate more directly the cellular mechanisms to behavior.

We have also focused on long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus, a long-lasting form of synaptic plasticity that is thought to be involved in mammalian learning and memory. We use electrophysiological , histochemical, and genetic methods in hippocampal slices and in dissociated cell culture to investigate cellular mechanisms of LTP. 


Antonov,I., Antonova, I., Kandel, E.R., and Hawkins, R. D. (2003).Activity-dependent presynaptic facilitation and Hebbian LTP are bothrequired and interact during classical conditioning in Aplysia. Neuron,37: 135-147." for Antonov et al., 2001.

Antonova, I., Arancio, O., Trillat,A.-C., Wang, H.-G., Zablow, L., Udo, H., Kandel, E.R., and Hawkins,R.D. (2001). Rapid increase in clusters of presynaptic proteins atonset of long-lasting potentiation. Science, 294: 1547-1550.

Antonov. I., Antonova, I., Kandel,E.R., and Hawkins, R.D. (2001). The contribution of activity-dependentsynaptic plasticity to classical conditioning in Aplysia. J.Neuroscience, 21: 6413-6422.

Arancio, O.,Kiebler, M., Lee, C.J., Lev-Ram, V., Tsien, R.Y., Kandel, E.R., andHawkins, R.D. (1996). Nitric oxide acts directly in the presynapticneuron to produce long-term potentiation in cultured hippocampalneurons. Cell, 87: 1025-1035.

Hawkins, R.D., Kandel, E.R., and Siegelbaum, S.A. (1992). Learning tomodulate transmitter release: themes and variations in synapticplasticity. Ann. Rev. Neurosci., 16: 625-665.