The Pierce lab seeks to identify genetic mechanisms that govern behaviors and contribute to genetic disorders, approaching this complex subject by studying conserved genes in the simple but powerful model nematode C. elegans. They current focus on several issues: 1) What are the underlying causes and potential cures for neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, PSP, and Huntington's disease? 2) What underlies behaviors important for alcohol addiction? 3) Which genes contribute to problems in Down syndrome and autism? Using the worm as a minimal system allows rapid identification of which uncharacterized and novel molecules are responsible for cellular pathologies and behavioral responses to drugs. To study the genetic basis of behavior and disease, the lab combines genetic screens to identify genes involved in a behavior, in vivo electrophysiology and calcium imaging to study the function of identified neurons in the behavior, and image analysis tools to quantify the behavior.