Welcome to the Parasitic Behavioral Manipulation Lab at the University of Central Florida! We study parasite-host systems in which parasites induce manipulated behaviors in their host to advance transmission. We strive to unravel the mechanisms that parasites use to adaptively change the behavioral output of their host’s brain. Additionally, we aim to understand how “normal” behaviors are regulated and how pathological behaviors emerge. As a model system, we use the parasite-host interaction between Ophiocordyceps fungi and Carpenter ants. These real-life zombies live right on our doorstep here in Central Florida, which allows us to perform continuous lab and field studies.  We, therefore, combine laboratory techniques such as molecular microbiology, genetics, genomics, and controlled laboratory infections with behavioral  and evolutionary ecology studies. This interdisciplinary approach makes our lab a vibrant workplace for researchers from various backgrounds with a variety of interests.

Photo by: Miles Zhang