Return to: Medical School: Academic Health Center : U of M Home

Gold University of Minnesota M. Skip to main content.University of Minnesota. Home page.

Introduction to Research

Faculty Research

Faculty Searches

Research Safety

University Imaging Centers (UIC)

Introduction to Education

Undergraduate Program

Graduate Program

Related Programs

Course Offerings

Seminar Series

Colloquium Series

Conferences and Symposia

Introduction to Community Outreach

Brain Awareness Week

Brain U

Neuroscience at the Minnesota State Fair

Office/Administrative Staff

Other Neuroscience Websites



Neuroscience Homepage  > Faculty List > Mesce
Karen A. Mesce, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Entomology
Neural systems and neurodevelopment.

We are investigating the neural mechanisms underlying the generation of behavior in simpler invertebrate "model" systems. Currently, we are studying the structure and function of neurons in the medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis and the hawkmoth, Manduca sexta. These preparations were chosen for study because individual neurons can be identified from animal to animal and followed through development.  

Many of our research projects involve an examination of how neurons change during development to give rise to adult-specific behaviors. As Manduca develops from the larval to adult form, dramatic changes in its nervous system are observed. Some larval neurons (not needed by the adult) undergo developmentally programmed cell death, while others are retained and re-modeled; their morphology and synaptic contacts become altered. In addition, many new neurons are generated de novo and are used only in the adult stage. Our goals are to understand how all of these changes, which are under hormonal regulation, contribute to the "construction" of particular adult behaviors. We have focused on the re-use of larval interneurons and the cellular mechanisms that enable "old" neurons to be incorporated into the adult nervous system to generate new behaviors. 

Our methods include: intra- and extracellular electrophysiological techniques, intracellular dye injection, laser scanning confocal microscopy, immunocytochemistry, and behavioral analysis.
Selected Publications
J. E. Ferguson, C. Boldt, J. G. Puhl, T. W. Stigen, J. C. Jackson, K. M.
Crisp, K. A. Mesce, T. I. Netoff, A. D. Redish 2012. "Nanowires precisely
grown on the ends of microwire electrodes permit the recording of
intracellular action potentials within deeper neural structures"
Nanomedicine 8(4):427-433.
Crisp, KM, Gallagher, BR, Mesce, KA.  2012. Mechanisms Contributing to the
Dopamine Induction of Crawl-Like Bursting in Leech Motoneurons. J Exp Biol
215: 3028-3036.
Puhl, J.G., Masino, M., Mesce, K.A. 2012 Necessary, Sufficient and
Permissive:  A Single Locomotor Command Neuron Important for Intersegmental
Coordination. J Neurosci 32(49):17646-17657

Mesce, K.A., Pierce-Shimomura, J.T. 2010. Shared Strategies for Behavioral Switching: Understanding How Locomotor Patterns Are Turned On and Off. Front Neurosci vol 4, article 49, 1-5.

Puhl, J.G., Mesce, K.A. 2010. Keeping It Together: Mechanism of Intersegmental Coordination for a Flexible Locomotor Behavior. J Neurosci 30:2373-2383.(cover)

Swanson, J.A.I., Torto, B., Kells, S.A., Mesce, K.A., Tumlinson, J.H., Spivak, M. 2009. Odorants that Induce Hygienic Behavior in Honeybees: Identification of Volatile Compounds in Chalkbrood-Infected Honeybee Larvae. J Chem Ecol 35:1108-1116.

Puhl, J.G., Mesce, K.A. 2008. Dopamine Activates the Motor Pattern for Crawling in the Medicinal Leech. J Neurosci 28:4192-200 .

Mesce, K.A., Esch T, Kristan, W.B. Jr.  2008. Cellular Substrates of Action Selection: A Cluster of Higher-Order Descending Neurons Shapes Body Posture and Locomotion. J Comp Physiol A 194:469-81.

Himes, K.E, Klukas, K.A., Fahrbach, S.E., *Mesce*, K.A. 2008.
Hormone-Dependent Expression of Fasciclin II during Ganglionic Migration and Fusion in the Ventral Nerve Cord of the Moth, /Manduca sexta./
J Comp Neurol 509:319-39.
Crisp KM, Mesce KA
Beyond the central pattern generator: amine modulation of decision-making neural pathways descending from the brain of the medicinal leech.
J Exp Biol, 2006 May;209(Pt 9): 1746-56.
Goode K, Huber Z, Mesce K, Spivak M.
Hygienic behavior in the honey bee (Apis mellifera) is independent of sucrose responsiveness and foraging ontogeny.
Horm Behav, 2006 Mar;49(3):391-7.

Fahrbach SE, Mesce KA
"Neuroethoendocrinology": integration of field and laboratory studies in insect neuroendocrinology.
Horm Behav, 2005 Nov;48(4):352-9.

Crisp KM, Mesce KA.
A cephalic projection neuron involved in locomotion is dye coupled to the dopaminergic neural network in the medicinal leech.
J Exp Biol, 2004 Dec;207(Pt 26):4535-42.
Crisp, KM, Mesce KA
To swim or not to swim: regional effects of serotonin, octopamine and amine in medicinal leech.
J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Behav Physiol 2003 Jun;189(6):461-470.
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.