Dr Peter Simmons
Reader in Neurobiology & Behaviour

Introduction

I am interested in how nerve cells work to control behaviour, and the focus of my research is insect vision and flight.

In 2010, 'Nerve Cells and Animal Behaviour' , co-authored by David Young of Melbourne University, was published in its third edition by Cambriadge University Press. It is aimed primarily at final year undergraduates, providing an introduction to current research in Neuroethology.

Research Interests

My research focuses on insects - particularly how dragonflies and locusts fly, how cicadas sing, and how locusts use their eyes. Locusts have two types of eye: compound eyes, which are used for seeing shapes and movmenets; and ocelli or simple eyes, which register movements of the visual horizon to act as a kind of stabilising system for attitude during flight.   I am interested in synapses, and the roles they play in transforming signals - the locust ocellar system is an extremely good subject for studying the Natural History of synapses.  One of my most recent discoveries is that neurons in the ocellar pathway can deliver extremely precisely timed signals, and I am investigating how those are generated and used.   In working on the compound eye I collaborate with Claire Rind. We investigate a unique, identifiable nerve cell that  responds to approaching objects, and can warn of collision or capture by a predator. Currenlty I am performing experiments to find out how well that neuron works in young locusts compared with mature adults.

Projects

Undergraduate Teaching

Degree Programme Director - Zoology
Lectures and Practicals inthese modules:  Animal Kingdom, Stage 1; Animal Physiology, Stage 2; Mechanisms of Behaviour, Stage 3.