Mechanisms of Behavior

Mechanisms of Behavior

The Mechanisms of Behavior (MoB) area focuses on understanding neural, evolutionary, and ontogenetic mechanisms of behavior. Faculty interests extend to both proximate and ultimate mechanisms of a broad variety of behaviors, including sexual behaviors, sex differences, mate choice, and reproduction; communication; parent-offspring interactions; feeding and foraging; and animal models of neural disease and psychopathology.

An important point of convergence for the area is in understanding how behavior serves biological functions (or dysfunctions) in individual and social life, how behavior develops within

the context of biological systems, and how the nervous system and body sense and express themselves.

Evolution, the unifying framework of the life sciences, is central to our domain, and thus we incorporate comparative approaches and adaptive-evolutionary analyses.

Neurobiology is at the core of behavior and one of the grand challenges is to discover ways of integrating across levels: from neurons and the genes and molecules within them, to the functional systems that they form, to the behavior they express, and to the interactions of behaving bodies that they mediate.

Thus, the MoB is focused on informed and applied applications to behavior, incorporating systems-level, cellular, and molecular approaches into the organism, to understand their roles in behavior, and the roles of behavior in shaping neurobiological expression.

Behavior, behavioral change, and the measurement thereof is central to the goals of the psychological and brain sciences, as well as more broadly to the goals of the health and life sciences. The MoB area connects with many of the most venerable topics of the psychological sciences—sensation and perception, motivation, social behavior, and learning. In all of these endeavors, we champion behavior as both cause and consequence.

IU Bloomington is a national leader in the study of mechanisms of behavior, with a broad representation across the campus (PBS, Biology, Anthropology, Cognitive Science, Medical Sciences, Chemistry, History & Philosophy of Science, Gender Studies, Neuroscience, Physics, SPEA, Informatics, Kelley, Optometry).

The MoB area within PBS serves as the liaison to other strong Bloomington programs in animal behavior, such as the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB), a thriving center with national prominence widely regarded as a model of interdisciplinary research and training on the mechanisms of behavior. Several of the MoB faculty are also affiliated with the Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity training grant, the highly successful NIH-funded T32 that forged strong connections with the Kinsey Institute, Biology, Anthropology, Chemistry, and PBS.


Financial support for the Mechanisms of Behavior program is generous. As for all areas in the department, all incoming MoB graduate students are provided with scholarships for tuition and fees, as well as a 12-month stipend. This support can come from teaching assistantships, research assistantships, fellowships or training grants (see below). All students are guaranteed full support for five years as long as they are in good academic standing.

MoB students are also potentially eligible for fellowships through the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB), or the NIH-funded Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity (CTRD) training grant. For more information on these opportunities, visit the websites for CISAB or CTRD.

Area faculty

Jeff Alberts, Julia Heiman, Drew King, Dale Sengelaub, Peter Todd, Cara Wellman (spokesperson),Meredith West, Jonathan Crystal, Ed Hirt, Andrea Hohmann, Karin James