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Florida Atlantic University & Max Planck Florida Institute - Integrative Biology and Neuroscience

Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Faculty - Dr. Ken Dawson-Scully


Dr. Ken Dawson-Scully

Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
College of Science
Florida Atlantic University

Research Description

Since the origin of life, organisms have been exposed to dynamic and unpredictable environments that have bred adaptations to buffer internal physiological functioning from external fluctuations. The evolution of complex nervous systems, and the behaviors they subserve, has played a fundamental role in shaping mechanisms for maintaining homeostasis in the face of environmental perturbations. Adapted animals, such as insects, employ genetic, molecular, and physiological strategies to prevent specific neurological pathologies resulting from stressors such as low oxygen (anoxia), high temperatures (hyperthermia), and high levels of free radicals (oxidative stress). My research program is poised to take advantage of this through the use of a genetically tractable model system, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In the recent past Drosophila has been used to successfully model a number of human disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and obesity. Advantages of the fruit fly include its short life-cycle, high fecundity, sequenced genome and amenability to genetic manipulation. Such characteristics, combined with a general conservation of cellular processes between flies and humans, make Drosophila an ideal system to study cellular pathways associated with neural failure following severe trauma, and to develop novel therapies targeting molecules that contribute to neural dysfunction and cell death/damage. Our goal is to develop novel methods for maintaining both neural function and survival during such instances.

Research Interests

  • Neurobiology of cellular stress and neuroprotection
  • Using live cell imaging
  • Electrophysiology
  • Behavior genetics


  • Ph.D., University of Toronto, Physiology (2003)

Recent Publications

  • Milton, S.L. and Dawson-Scully, K. (2013) Alleviating brain stress: what alternative animal models have revealed about therapeutic targets for hypoxia and anoxia. Future Neurol 8(3):287-301.
  • Caplan, S.L., Milton, S.L., and Dawson-Scully, K. (2013) A cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG) controls synaptic transmission tolerance to acute oxidative stress at the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction. J Neurophysiol 109(3):649-658
  • Armstrong, G.A., Xiao, C., Krill, J.L., Seroude, L., Dawson-Scully, K., and Robertson, R.M. (2011) Glial Hsp70 protects K+ homeostasis in the Drosophila brain during repetitive anoxic depolarization. PloS ONE 6(12):e28994
  • Chen, A., Kramer, E.F., Purpura, L., Krill, J.L., Zars, T., and Dawson-Scully, K. (2011) The influence of natural variation at the foraging gene on thermotolerance in adult Drosophila in a narrow temperature range. J Comp Physiol A 197(12):1113-1118.
Click here for most recent publications

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