Dr. Christopher Thompson
Dr. Thompson joined the School of Neuroscience as an assistant professor in 2016. He was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, where he received a BS in Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution in 2000, and earned his PhD in 2008 from the University of Washington in Neurobiology and Behavior, studying the effects of sex steroid hormones on seasonal changes in the song control system, a brain circuit that controls singing in songbirds. He was also an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Freie Universität in Berlin (Germany) from 2008-2011 and then joined Holly Cline’s laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, focusing his research efforts on how thyroid hormone shapes development of the visual system in tadpoles.
Thyroid hormone is a critical regulator of vertebrate brain development, impacting neural cell proliferation, differentiation, and neuron morphology pre- and post-natally. Dysregulation of thyroid hormone signaling during development is associated with significant, long-lasting behavioral deficits in humans and compromised brain development. There is growing concern that certain chemicals used in consumer, industrial, and agricultural products and manufacturing processes may interfere with thyroid hormone signaling in humans and animals. Many of these chemicals have not been evaluated for their effects on the molecular and cellular events that underlie brain development, however. The Thompson laboratory uses African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) tadpoles to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms affected by disruption of thyroid hormone because the external development of tadpoles allows manipulation and direct observation of cell proliferation, neuronal differentiation and morphological changes underlying brain development. Furthermore, although a surge of thyroid hormone drives metamorphosis in mature tadpoles, younger tadpoles are acutely sensitive to exposure to thyroid hormone, making them excellent subjects for analysis of suspected thyroid hormone disrupting compounds.