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Thomas Park
Thomas Park, PhD
Professor, Co-Director of LIN
Neuro Group Coordinator
UIC Biological Sciences, 4278 SEL M/C 067
840 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Office: (312) 413-3020
Lab: (312) 413-9624
Fax: (312) 413-2435
Email: tpark@uic.edu

Research Interests: Neurobiology of Sensory Systems

Our research focuses on the neurobiology of sensory information processing, using two model systems: sound localization in echolocating bats, and orientation to touch in naturally blind naked mole-rats. We combine behavioral and physiological techniques to study these highly adapted systems, and to examine fundamental questions about sensory organization and behavior.

In many cases, progress in understanding sensory behavior and neural processing has been aided by the analysis of model systems. Echolocating bats are considered to be hearing specialists. They rely on hearing the echoes from their own calls to navigate though their environment, and to identify and localize the flying insects that they prey upon. In my lab, we study the behavior and neural information processing associated with sound localization.

In contrast to bats, the naked mole-rat, a totally subterranean animal, does not localize sounds well, nor is it able to use visual information. Rather, these animals place a great emphasis on touch for gathering and processing spatial information. Our focus with the naked mole-rats is on their “body whiskers,” a unique array of sensory hairs that criss-crosses their otherwise furless bodies, and functions in guiding orientation behaviors.

Representative Publications

LaVinka PC, Park TJ. (2012) Blunted behavioral and C Fos responses to acidic fumes in the African naked mole-rat. PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45060.

Peterson BL, Larson J, Buffenstein R, Park TJ, Fall CP (2012) Blunted neuronal calcium response to hypoxia in naked mole-rat hippocampus. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31568. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031568. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Larson J and Park TJ (2009) Extreme hypoxia tolerance of naked mole-rat brain. Neuroreport 20(18): 1634-1637.

Magnusson AK, Park TJ, Pecka M, Grothe B and Koch U (2008) Retrograde GABA signaling adjusts sound localization by balancing excitation and inhibition in the brainstem. Neuron 59: 125-37.

Park TJ, Lu Y, Jüttner R, Smith ES, Hu J, Brand A, Wetzel C, Milenkovic N, Erdmann B, Heppenstall PA, Laurito CE, Wilson SP and Lewin GR (2008) Selective inflammatory pain insensitivity in the African naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber). PloS Biol 6: 156-170.