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Our research is focused in understanding how natural behavior emerges from the interaction between an organism’s history (evolution), its genes, its nervous system, and its environment. Understanding of the basic principles governing these interactions will allow us to gain insight into how animals work (including humans).

Currently we are working several projects based on natural behaviors worms share with many other organisms, and on human pathologies for which the use of invertebrates can be a useful genetic model: 

1) Molecular mechanisms of muscle degeneration and protection during Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
2) Animal detection and use the magnetic field or the earth.
3) Adaptation of molecular and genetic techniques to the study of crustacean neuroscience.

Please click on the tabs on the left to learn amore about our research program. Understanding the principles governing the production of successful behavior will generate insights that will be valuable in a wide variety of ways: from restoring motor function following injury or disease, to designing intelligent machines that can respond to unexpected environmental challenges.


  • NIH NIAMS 2R15AR068583-02. Vidal-Gadea (PI). 09/22/2022 – 08/31/2025. Genetic repair of muscular degeneration associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
  • NSF MCB 1818140. Vidal-Gadea (PI). 07/01/2018 – 06/30/2023. Neuronal and molecular basis for magnetic transduction in the nematode C. elegans.
  • NIH NIAMS 1R15AR068583-01A1. Vidal-Gadea (PI). 06/01/2016 – 05/31/2020. Genetic Repair of Muscular Degeneration Associated with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
  • Pre-tenure Faculty Initiative Grant – ISU. Vidal-Gadea (PI). Effects of Mars’ magnetic and gravitational fields of terrestrial organisms. (2018)​.
  • College of Arts and Science Interdisciplinary Initiative Grant- ISU. Vidal-Gadea (PI). Harnessing our research programs to improve scientific literacy in our community. (2018)​.
  • New Faculty Initiative Grant – ISU. Vidal-Gadea (PI). Identification of a suppressor mutation responsible for the repair of mobility and the prevention of muscle degeneration in an animal model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. (2016).


Our lab investigated the behavioral, cellular, and molecular basis of magnetic field detection and orientation in the nematode C. elegans. We successfully identified the first pair of magnetosensory neurons in any species and are currently working on resolving the transduction machinery for this fascinating sensory modality (click on the picture above to learn more). 

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Work in our lab is investigating the molecular events that liink loss of the protein dystrophin to muscle degeneration and death in during Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Images above are EM micrographs of healthy (left) and dystrophic (right) muscles taken by Kristen Flatt collaborators at the Schroeder lab at the University of Illinois (click on the picture above to learn more). 

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Our lab is working in an international collaboration with the Lyko lab (Germany), and the Stein (Illinois State University) to adapt modern molecular  techniques to the study of crustacean neuroscience. Our students are using transgenesis and RNA interference to investigate the neurogenetic basis of behavior using the parthenogenetic Marbled crayfish species (click on the picture above to learn more). 

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