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Indiana University Bloomington

Department of Biology

Faculty & Research

Faculty Profile

Greg Demas

Photo of Greg Demas
Research Images
Research photo by Greg Demas

Neuroendocrine-immune interactions and behavior in an ecologically relevant context.

Professor, Associate Chair for Research

IU Affiliations
Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior
Program in Neuroscience

Contact Information
By telephone: 812-856-0158/5-6257(lab)
By fax: 812-855-6705
JH 265 / JH 267 (lab)

Demas Lab website
Mechanisms of Behavior

Evolution, Ecology & Behavior
Research Areas
  • Behavior
  • Ecology

Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1998, Postdoctoral Fellow, NSF Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Georgia State University, 1998-2001


Frank A. Beach Award in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, 2002

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2013

Fellow, Animal Behavior Society (ABS), 2015

Research Description

The primary focus of our laboratory is the study of neuroendocrine-immune interactions and behavior in an ecologically relevant context. Many organisms, including mammals, birds and reptiles, demonstrate pronounced fluctuations in immune function across the seasons of the year. These seasonal fluctuations in immunity may have evolved as adaptive functional responses to seasonal changes in disease prevalence. The broad goal of our research is to identity the environmental and social factors contributing to seasonal changes in immunity and to determine the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying these changes in a variety of rodent species. Current projects focus on: The role of the pineal hormone melatonin as an endocrine mediator of immune-brain interactions; The role of direct sympathetic neural connections between the brain and peripheral immune tissues, as well as neuro-immune factors (e.g., cytokines), in regulating seasonal changes in immune function; The energetic costs of immunity and, specifically, the role of the adipose tissue hormone leptin in the regulation of immune function. The other broad area of interest within the laboratory is the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying aggression. Specifically, we are interested in the role of steroid hormones (e.g., testosterone, cortisol) as well as "neurosteroids" (e.g., DHEA) in resident-intruder models of aggression and other social behaviors. We employ both "knockout" animal models, as well as more traditional physiological manipulations, to evaluate behavioral phenotypes in several rodent species. Specific research questions are addressed from both adaptive-functional and physiological perspectives. Current projects focus on: The role of the pineal hormone melatonin in mediating seasonal aggression in male and females rodents. The role of gonadal and adrenal steroids mediating social behaviors Neurosteroid modulation of aggression Students in the laboratory can expect to learn a variety of neuroendocrine and immune techniques including: cell proliferation assays, determination of antibody concentrations using enzyme-linked immunosorbant assays (ELISAs). tests of delayed-type hypersensitivity, hymolytic complement, bacterial kliing, enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) to determine specific hormone concentrations, high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) to assess neurotransmitter levels, trans-neuronal viral tract tracing, immunocytochemistry (ICC) to localize brain receptor subtypes, as well as stereotaxic and other small animal surgeries. We also employ a variety of behavioral tests to assess anxiety, general activity, aggression and reproductive behavior. Our laboratory is in a unique position to apply an integrative approach to the understanding of how the brain communicates with the periphery in coordinating seasonal changes in physiology and behavior. We believe an integrative, multidisciplinary approach will allow for a biologically meaningful, ecologically relevant examination of the interactions among the neuroendocrine and immune systems and behavior.

Select Publications
Rendon, N.M., Rudolph, L.M., Sengelaub, D.R. and Demas, G.E.  2016. Adrenal steroids and seasonal aggression in female Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus), Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 282: 1-9
Rendon, N.M., Scotti, M-A.L., Soini, H., Novotny, M. and Demas, G.E.  2016. Volatile compounds vary seasonally in relation to changes in reproductive state and aggression in male, but not female, Siberian hamsters. Hormones and Behavior, 81:1-11.
Carlton, L.D. and Demas, G.E. 2016. Glucose and insulin modulate sickness responses in male Siberian hamsters, General and Comparative Endocrinology, In press.
Soma, K.K., Rendon, N.M., Boonstra, R. Alberts, H.E and Demas, G.E. 2015. Effects of DHEA on social behavior and the brain: Insights from comparative studies.  Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 145:261-272
Carlton, L.D. and Demas, G.E. 2015. Body mass affect seasonal variation in sickness intensity in a seasonally-breeding, Journal of Experimental Biology, 218: 1667-1676.   
Demas, G.E. and Carlton, L.D. 2015.  Ecoimmunology for Psychoneuroimmunologists: Considering context for understanding neuroendocrine-immune-behavior interactions. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 44:9-16.

French, S.S., Chester, E.M. and Demas, G.E. 2013.  Maternal immune activation affects neuroendocrine responses related to behavior in adult offspring, Physiology & Behavior, 119: 175-184

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