The Crook Lab works at multiple levels of organization, from cellular neuroscience to behavior, ecology and evolution.

Our broad focus is the physiology of injury.


mechanisms of ANESTHESIA in cephalopods

In this project, we are examining how typical cephalopod anesthetics affect the peripheral and central nervous systems of cephalopods. Using direct recording techniques from the neurons of awake, behaving animals, we can measure how different drugs affect sensation, awareness and memory of cephalopods undergoing noxious or invasive procedures.


The search for functional analgesics for cephalopods

Analgesia in invertebrates is almost completely unstudied, however, its provision is a legal requirement in countries that regulate the use of cephalopods in research. We are using behavioral and cognitive assays to measure the effects of common analgesics with highly conserved molecular targets on cephalopods, and neural recordings to look at effects on the peripheral and central nervous systems.


Effects of early-life injury on long-term neural plasticity

In mammals, injury experienced in early life can result in life-long increase in pain sensitivity. Using squid and octopus, we are testing the hypothesis that this is a highly conserved mechanism that allows animals to adapt to a persistently dangerous environment, where costs of permanent hypersensititvy are outweighed by the benefits of long-term plasticity in nociceptive sensory circuits.


Effects of Tissue injury on camouflage choice and quality

Octopuses are renowned for their exceptional ability to match their substrate, however, injury can create white patches where chromatic skin has been removed. In this project, we are looking at how octopuses with minor injuries evaluate their camouflage options, and determining whether visual, nociceptive or combinations of cues underlie injury-induced changes to optimal camouflage decision-making.


effect of vibrio fischeri on hatchling squid survival and behavior

Euprymna scolopes acquires a bioluminescent bacterial partner from seawater shortly after hatching. The bioluminescence is thought to aid in counter-illuminating squid during foraging, but rigorous tests of the effect of symbiont colonization are lacking. Here, we are investigating how the absence of the symbiont affects hatchling behaviors such as foraging, survival rates and neuroanatomy.


Plasticity in the escape Jet circuit

Squid escape from danger by jetting backwards rapidly; a series of giant nerve fibers controls this action. Despite extensive study of the giant axon and synapse of the squid, little is known about its role in natural function. In this project, we ask how injury affects jet escape threshold, and whether the giant axon and synapse are the source of this plasticity.


Effects of ANTHROPOGENIC disturbance on adaptive, injury-induced behaviors

Climate change and marine pollutants have wide ranging effects on coastal animals’ physiology. In a series of related projects, we are looking at how stress from various anthropogenic disturbances affect animals’ abilities to cope with injury, a prevalent and evolutionarily ancient stressor. Using behavioral and neurophysiological assays, we are looking at how EDCs and elevated temperatures affect animals after injury.



The cephalopod CNS is the most complex invertebrate brain, but it is poorly characterized. In this study, we are examining the properties of sensory neuron cell bodies in the central brain, and measuring changes in excitability in cells and circuits in the higher cognitive centers in the supraesophageal ganglion.



The stellate ganglion contains the giant synapse that mediates escape jetting, but also contains many other cell bodies. In this study we look at how the stellate ganglion modulates excitability in the peripheral nervous system, by measuring excitability in nerves central and peripheral to the stellate ganglion.

This is a selection of projects currently underway in the crook lab. For more information, contact the lab.

Potential students who wish to work on a specific project or a project of their own design should speak with Dr. Crook, for further information regarding availability, feasibility and funding.