The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is unique among other organs because it has its own intrinsic nervous system that can function largely independently to regulate a variety of digestive and metabolic functions. This enteric nervous system (ENS) is large, complex, and an important component of the gut-brain axis. The overarching goal of our lab is to determine how the cells of the ENS detect and integrate information to modulate autonomic behaviors, including gastrointestinal motility, intestinal epithelial functions, innate immune responses, and nutrient handling. 

We aim to learn fundamental principles about how the nervous, immune and endocrine systems interact with each to regulate organ function. We are also driven by the idea that learning how enteric circuits regulate autonomic behaviors will ultimately elucidate how ENS dysfunction contributes to human disease. In order to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which enteric neurons, glia and specialized epithelial cells in the gut transduce information and communicate with each other to modulate behaviors, we use mouse genetic models, imaging of live and fixed tissues, as well as a variety of in vivo and in vitro assays.