Tod R. Thiele

Tod Thiele
Assistant Professor
421 - E

Research Interests: 

Essential to our daily lives is the ability to use sensory information to plan and produce goal-directed movements. There is an incredible amount of complexity in the sensorimotor circuits that control even the most basic of behaviours such as reaching for an object. The focus of my laboratory is to understand the structure and function of sensorimotor circuits at the level of individual neurons and their associated neural circuits using the larval zebrafish as a model system. The zebrafish is a powerful model to study neural circuits due to its unparalleled combination of experimental approaches, notably the ability to optically monitor and manipulate activity throughout the brain. We utilize two-photon calcium imaging, optogenetic manipulation of neural activity, neuroanatomical tracing and quantitative behavioural analysis to determine how circuits in the fish transform visual information into goal-directed movements. Given the strong conservation of brain organization across vertebrates, discoveries made in zebrafish can provide core insights into the function of similar circuits in mammals. 


  • Behaviour
  • Sensorimotor integration
  • Two-photon calcium imaging
  • Optogenetics
  • Genetics
  • Neurodegenerative diseases

Research Area

Sensorimotor integration, Motor control, Systems Neuroscience

Current Research

- Investigation of midbrain motor control circuits

- Analysis of circuitry homologous to the direct and indirect pathways of the mammalian basal ganglia  

- Development of zebrafish as a model for Parkinson's disease

- Development of novel behavioural and imaging techniques


We are currently recruiting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Please inquire via email and include a CV, statement of research interests, writing sample and transcripts.


Roberts WM, Augustine SB, Lawton KJ, Lindsay TH, Thiele TR, Izquierdo EJ, Faumont S, Lindsay RA, Britton MC, Pokala N, Bargmann CI, Lockery SR. A stochastic neuronal model predicts random search behaviors at multiple spatial scales in C. elegans. Elife. 2016 Jan 29;5. pii: e12572. doi: 10.7554/eLife.12572.

Semmelhack JL, Donovan JC, Thiele TR, Kuehn E, Laurell E, Baier H. A dedicated visual pathway for prey detection in larval zebrafish. Elife. 2014 Dec 9;3. doi: 10.7554/eLife.04878. PubMed PMID: 25490154; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4281881.

Thiele TR, Donovan JC, Baier H. Descending control of swim posture by a midbrain nucleus in zebrafish. Neuron. 2014 Aug 6;83(3):679-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.04.018. Epub 2014 Jul 24. PubMed PMID: 25066082; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4157661.

Faumont S, Rondeau G, Thiele TR, Lawton KJ, McCormick KE, Sottile M, Griesbeck O, Heckscher ES, Roberts WM, Doe CQ, Lockery SR. An image-free opto-mechanical system for creating virtual environments and imaging neuronal activity in freely moving Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24666. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024666. Epub 2011 Sep 28. PubMed PMID: 21969859; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3182168.

Lindsay TH, Thiele TR, Lockery SR. Optogenetic analysis of synaptic transmission in the central nervous system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Nat Commun. 2011;2:306. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1304. PubMed PMID: 21556060; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3935721.

Thiele TR, Faumont S, Lockery SR. The neural network for chemotaxis to tastants in Caenorhabditis elegans is specialized for temporal differentiation. J Neurosci. 2009 Sep 23;29(38):11904-11. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0594-09.2009. PubMed PMID: 19776276; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3376908.

Suzuki H, Thiele TR, Faumont S, Ezcurra M, Lockery SR, Schafer WR. Functional asymmetry in Caenorhabditis elegans taste neurons and its computational role in chemotaxis. Nature. 2008 Jul 3;454(7200):114-7. doi: 10.1038/nature06927. PubMed PMID: 18596810; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2984562.

Lockery SR, Lawton KJ, Doll JC, Faumont S, Coulthard SM, Thiele TR, Chronis N, McCormick KE, Goodman MB, Pruitt BL. Artificial dirt: microfluidic substrates for nematode neurobiology and behavior. J Neurophysiol. 2008 Jun;99(6):3136-43. doi: 10.1152/jn.91327.2007. Epub 2008 Mar 12. PubMed PMID: 18337372;  PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2693186.

Miller AC, Thiele TR, Faumont S, Moravec ML, Lockery SR. Step-response analysis of chemotaxis in Caenorhabditis elegans. J Neurosci. 2005 Mar 30;25(13):3369-78. PubMed PMID: 15800192.

Davies AG, Bettinger JC, Thiele TR, Judy ME, McIntire SL. Natural variation in the npr-1 gene modifies ethanol responses of wild strains of C. elegans. Neuron. 2004 Jun 10;42(5):731-43. PubMed PMID: 15182714.

Davies AG, Pierce-Shimomura JT, Kim H, VanHoven MK, Thiele TR, Bonci A, Bargmann CI, McIntire SL. A central role of the BK potassium channel in behavioral responses to ethanol in C. elegans. Cell. 2003 Dec 12;115(6):655-66. PubMed PMID: 14675531.

Teaching Interests: 

NROC34: Neuroethology