Rick Thompson

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology


PhD| Cornell University| 1996

BS| Furman University| 1989

Courses Taught

Introduction to Psychobiology and Cognition


Hormones and Behavior

Sex Differences in Brains and Behavior



Research Interests

Work in my lab explores how steroid hormones and neuropeptides in the vasopressin / oxytocin family influence social behaivors in vertebrate animals. Specifically, we want to learn where and how within the brain these molecules act to rapidly modulate interactions between individuals, thereby allowing them to adjust ongoing behavioral outputs to changing social contexts. Although I have worked with numerous species across vertebrate groups, current work is focused on goldfish and zebrafish, two closely related teleost fish in which we can study the cellular and molecular mechanisms through which these molecules affect brain and behavioral responses to social stimuli. We are currently 1) investigating the receptor mechanisms through which androgens and estrogens influence early stages of sensory processing, 2) characterizing the neural circuits through which vasotocin and isotocin, fish versions of vasorpessin and oxytocin, promote social approach and withdrawal, and 3) determining if steorid hormones produce some of their rapid behavioral effects by modulating activity within vasotocin or isotocin circuits. A complemenatary line of research explores how vasorpressin modulates social perceptions in humans. Ultimately, we hope to characterize the steroid and peptide mechanisms that evolved in different species to solve social challenges unique to their life histories, as well as to identify similarities in how these systems work across species that represent the fundamental mechanisms through which brain neurochemistry affects social behaivor in vertebrate animals.