Christopher A. Del Negro, Ph.D.


I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Science at The College of William & Mary. with research interests in the neuroscience of rhythmic behaviors of humans and all mammals.

Important problems in contemporary biological sciences are interdisciplinary by nature. This is especially true in neuroscience, which seeks to explain the origins of behavior at multiple levels of analysis: from genes to cells and networks. The behaviors we study consist of simple rhythmic movements, such as breathing, walking, and chewing. We focus particularly on the neural basis for respiration.

The need to breathe is obvious. Homeostasis in humans and all mammals depends on breathing movements, which originate in the brain stem. Breathing is experimentally advantageous because reduced in vitro slice preparations from the neonatal rodent brain stem preserve the essential rhythm-generating neural circuits. These critical rhythm-generating circuits are located in a site dubbed the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC). The preBötC remains spontaneously active in vitro, and measurable motor output is emitted spontaneously by cranial and spinal motor nerves. Thus, preBötC neurons and their synaptic interactions can be studied in the context of fictive breathing-like behavior that is measurable in vitro.

Brain function underlies the vast repertoire of human behaviors. Dysfunction of the brain and central nervous system causes many of society’s most serious health problems. Our studies aim to discover fundamental principles of brain function, especially as it applies to motor rhythms that drive basic physiological functions such as breathing, chewing, and locomotion. In addition, our analyses of the neural generation of respiration may provide specific insights into disorders of the respiratory system that result in breathing disorders.

the neuroscience of rhythmic behavior in mammals

Christopher A. Del Negro, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Applied Science

McGlothlin-Street Hall, Room 318

The College of William & Mary

Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795


Office: (001) 757-221-7808

Cell: (001) 757-291-7399

Confocal Lab: (001) 757-221-2230

Fax: (001) 757-221-2050

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