Heather J. Rhodes

Heather J. Rhodes

Associate Professor
Chair of Neuroscience
Position Type
- Present

Academic Positions

Associate Professor, Department of Biology at Denison University, present

Associate Director, Grass Fellowship, Marine Biological Laboratories, Woods Hole, MA, 2017 and 2018

Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Biology at Boston University, 2004-2007

Grass Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratories, Woods Hole, MA, 2006

Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Neurobiology at Duke University, 2004

B.S., University of California, San Diego; Ph.D., Duke University

Learning & Teaching

  • Biology 220: Multicellular Life
  • Biology 334: Comparative Physiology, Human and Non-human Animals.
  • Biology 349: Neurophysiology
  • Neuroscience 412: Capstone seminar


I am interested in understanding the biological processes that underlie social communication, using the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) as my study species.  Xenopus are a fully aquatic frog native to sub-Saharan Africa.  They live in dense colonies and reproduce in the bottom of turbid ponds at night.  Thus they must use non-visual cues to establish their social structure and find mates.  We know they use a relatively elaborate (for a frog) vocal repertoire for social signaling, but they likely also use chemical and somatosensory signals as well.  I am interested in understanding what social signals they use, how they use them, and under what conditions different signaling systems may be employed.  My students and I approach these questions using a variety of techniques, including behavioral observations, endocrine manipulations, and neurophysiological recordings. My goal is to use a neuroethological approach, which is to say, I want to understand the neural mechanisms behind natural social behaviors in the context of their function and evolution.


  • Kelley, D.B, Elliott, T.M., Evans, B.J., Hall, I.C., Leininger, E.C., Rhodes, H.J., Yamaguchi, A. & Zornik, E. (2017). Probing forebrain to hindbrain circuit functions in Xenopus. Genesis, 55: e22999.
  • Rhodes, H.J., Stevenson, R.J. & Ego, C.L. (2014). Male-male clasping may be part of an alternative reproductive tactic in Xenopus laevis. PLoS ONE, 9(5): e97761.
  • VanHooser, S., Roy, A., Rhodes, H.J., Culp, J. & Fitzpatrick, D. (2013). Transformation of receptive field properties from lateral geniculate nucleus to superficial V1 in the tree shrew. J Neurosci, 33(28): 11494-11505.
  • Zornik, E., Katzen, A., Rhodes, H.J. & Yamaguchi, A. (2010). NMDAR-dependent control of call duration in Xenopus laevis. J Neurophysiol 103(6): 3501-3515.
  • Rhodes, H.J., Yu, H.J. & Yamaguchi, A. (2007) Xenopus vocalizations are controlled by a sexually differentiated hindbrain central pattern generator. J Neurosci, 27(6):1485-1497.
  • Chisum, H.J. & Fitzpatrick, D. (2004). The contribution of vertical and horizontal connections to the receptive field center and surround in V1. Neural Networks, 17(5-6):681-93.
  • Chisum, H.J., Mooser, F. & Fitzpatrick, D. (2003). Emergent properties of layer 2/3 neurons reflect the collinear arrangement of horizontal connections in tree shrew visual cortex. J Neurosci, 23(7):2947-2960.
  • Courchesne, E., Karns, C., Davis, H., Ziccardi, R., Carper, R., Tigue, Z., Chisum, H.J., Moses, P., Pierce, K., Lord, C., Lincoln, A.J., Pizzo, S., Schreibman, L., Haas, R.H., Akshoomoff, N.A., Courchesne, R.Y. (2001). Unusual brain growth patterns in early life in patients with autistic disorder: An MRI study. Neurology, 57: 245-54.
  • Courchesne, E., Chisum, H.J., Townsend, J., Cowles, A., Covington, J., Egaas, B., Harwood, M., Hinds, S., Press, G.A. (2000). Normal brain development and aging: quantitative analysis at in vivo MR imaging in healthy volunteers. Radiology, 216:672-682.
  • Courchesne, E., Chisum, H. & Townsend, J. (1994). Neural activity-dependent brain changes in development: Implications for psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 6:697-722.


Honors & Awards

2017 Grass Foundation Neuroscience Educational Outreach Grant “Creating Sustainable Neuroscience Education at the Secondary School Level, Globally (phase 1) and Locally (phase 2)” from the Grass Foundation with additional funds from Denison’s Alford Community Leadership & Involvement Center.

2016 Pedagogical Practice Project “Using science in the media as a gateway to the primary literature” funded by the Center for Learning and Teaching, Denison University.

2016 Pedagogical Practice – Service and Experiential Learning Award for “The use of directed study courses to create an interdisciplinary service learning experience for Denison students” from the Alford Community Leadership & Involvement Center, Denison University.


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