Margaret Livingstone, Ph.D.

Takeda Professor of Neurobiology
  • Livingstone Lab
  • 617/432-1664

We have  long been interested in how tuning properties of individual neurons can be clustered at a gross level in the brain.  We began by looking at the parallel processing of different kinds of visual information, going back and forth between human psychophysics, anatomical interconnectivity of modules in the primate brain, and single unit receptive-field properties. We discovered an interdigitating and highly specific connectivity between functionally distinct regions in V1 and V2 differentially concerned with processing form, color, motion and depth (Livingstone and Hubel, 1984, 1987).

Doris Tsao and Winrich Freiwald used functional MRI to localize face processing regions in the primate brain, and then used functional MRI to target single-unit recording to these functional modules.  We found an astonishingly high proportion of cells in these fMRI-identified regions to highly face selective (Tsao et al, 2006).

We then went on to characterize the tuning properties of this functional module, finding that face cells tend to be tuned to extremes of face parameters, such as intereye distance, eye size, etc Freiwald et al 2009).  This finding suggests why caricatures are so effective in evoking identity.

Currently we are again combining functional MRI and single unit recording to explore the effects of early intensive training on symbol recognition. 

A side interest in the lab is to use what we know about vision to understand some of the discoveries artists have made about how we see. The separate processing of color and form information has a parallel in artists' idea that color and luminance play very different roles in art (Livingstone, Vision and Art, Abrams Press, 2002). The elusive quality of the Mona Lisa's smile can be explained by the fact that her smile is almost entirely in low spatial frequencies, and so is seen best by your peripheral vision (Science, 290, 1299). These three images show her face filtered to show selectively lowest (left) low (middle) and high (right) spatial frequencies.

So when you look at her eyes or the background, you see a smile like the one on the left, or in the middle, and you think she is smiling. But when you look directly at her mouth, it looks more like the panel on the right, and her smile seems to vanish. The fact that the degree of her smile varies so much with gaze angle makes her expression dynamic, and the fact that her smile vanishes when you look directly at it, makes it seem elusive.

So when you look at her eyes or the background, you see a smile like the one on the left, or in the middle, and you think she is smiling. But when you look directly at her mouth, it looks more like the panel on the right, and her smile seems to vanish. The fact that the degree of her smile varies so much with gaze angle makes her expression dynamic, and the fact that her smile vanishes when you look directly at it, makes it seem elusive.

We have been looking at depth perception in artists, because poor depth perception might be an asset in a profession where the goal is to flatten a 3-D scene onto a canvas. We found evidence that a surprisingly large number of talented artists, including Rembrandt, might be stereoblind (Livingstone and Conway, 2004).  In the etching below you can see that Rembrandt portrayed himself as strabismic (with misaligned eyes).  If this were the case in only one or two of his self portraits, or if he also showed other subjects with misaligned eyes, we wouldn’t think anything of it, but Rembrandt most of the time portrays himself, but not other subjects, as wall-eyed, and the outward deviating eye is reversed in his paintings compared with his etchings (think about it!).

 

A side interest in the lab is to use what we know about vision to understand some of the discoveries artists have made about how we see. 

Tuning of face cells to a cartoon face space. (a) Three example dimensions of a 19-dimensional cartoon space. Each row shows example values for one parameter, with all other parameters fixed at their mean. (b) Tuning curves of two example cells to each of the 19 feature dimensions. Maximal, minimal, and mean values from shift predictor are shown in gray. Stars mark significant modulation.  Tuning of face cells to a cartoon face space. (a) Three example dimensions of a 19-dimensional cartoon space. Each row shows example values for one parameter, with all other parameters fixed at their mean. (b) Tuning curves of two example cells to each of the 19 feature dimensions. Maximal, minimal, and mean values from shift predictor are shown in gray. Stars mark significant modulation.

  1. Srihasam K, Vincent JL, Livingstone MS. Novel domain formation reveals proto-architecture in inferotemporal cortex. November 2, 2014. Nature neuroscience.

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  2. Livingstone MS, Pettine WW, Srihasam K, Moore B, Morocz IA, Lee D. Symbol addition by monkeys provides evidence for normalized quantity coding. April 21, 2014. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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  3. Arvanitis CD, Livingstone MS, McDannold N. Combined ultrasound and MR imaging to guide focused ultrasound therapies in the brain. June 20, 2013. Physics in medicine and biology.

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  4. Arvanitis CD, Livingstone MS, Vykhodtseva N, McDannold N. Controlled ultrasound-induced blood-brain barrier disruption using passive acoustic emissions monitoring. September 24, 2012. PloS one.

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  5. McDannold N, Arvanitis CD, Vykhodtseva N, Livingstone MS. Temporary disruption of the blood-brain barrier by use of ultrasound and microbubbles: safety and efficacy evaluation in rhesus macaques. May 2, 2012. Cancer research.

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  6. Srihasam K, Mandeville JB, Morocz IA, Sullivan KJ, Livingstone MS. Behavioral and anatomical consequences of early versus late symbol training in macaques. February 9, 2012. Neuron.

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  7. Ramachandran VS, Miller L, Livingstone MS, Brang D. Colored halos around faces and emotion-evoked colors: a new form of synesthesia. November 25, 2011. Neurocase.

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  8. Livingstone MS, Lafer-Sousa R, Conway BR. Stereopsis and artistic talent: poor stereopsis among art students and established artists. February 1, 2011. Psychological science.

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  9. Libedinsky C, Livingstone M. Role of prefrontal cortex in conscious visual perception. January 5, 2011. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  10. Livingstone MS, Srihasam K, Morocz IA. The benefit of symbols: monkeys show linear, human-like, accuracy when using symbols to represent scalar value. May 5, 2010. Animal cognition.

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  11. Srihasam K, Sullivan K, Savage T, Livingstone MS. Noninvasive functional MRI in alert monkeys. January 29, 2010. NeuroImage.

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  12. Chen H, Russell R, Nakayama K, Livingstone M. Crossing the 'uncanny valley': adaptation to cartoon faces can influence perception of human faces. January 1, 2010. Perception.

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  13. Freiwald WA, Tsao DY, Livingstone MS. A face feature space in the macaque temporal lobe. August 9, 2009. Nature neuroscience.

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  14. Howe PD, Horowitz TS, Morocz IA, Wolfe J, Livingstone MS. Using fMRI to distinguish components of the multiple object tracking task. April 13, 2009. Journal of vision.

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  15. Libedinsky C, Savage T, Livingstone M. Perceptual and physiological evidence for a role for early visual areas in motion-induced blindness. January 14, 2009. Journal of vision.

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  16. Haushofer J, Livingstone MS, Kanwisher N. Multivariate patterns in object-selective cortex dissociate perceptual and physical shape similarity. July 29, 2008. PLoS biology.

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  17. Haushofer J, Baker CI, Livingstone MS, Kanwisher N. Privileged coding of convex shapes in human object-selective cortex. June 25, 2008. Journal of neurophysiology.

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  18. Tsao DY, Livingstone MS. Mechanisms of face perception. January 1, 2008. Annual review of neuroscience.

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  19. Howe PD, Sagreiya H, Curtis DL, Zheng C, Livingstone MS. The double-anchoring theory of lightness perception: a comment on Bressan (2006). October 1, 2007. Psychological review.

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  20. Howe PD, Sagreiya H, Curtis DL, Zheng C, Livingstone MS. Postscript: a reply to Bressan (2007). October 1, 2007. Psychological review.

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  21. Conway BR, Livingstone MS. Perspectives on science and art. September 11, 2007. Current opinion in neurobiology.

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  22. Howe PD, Livingstone MS. The use of the cancellation technique to quantify the Hermann grid illusion. February 28, 2007. PloS one.

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  23. Howe PD, Thompson PG, Anstis SM, Sagreiya H, Livingstone MS. Explaining the footsteps, belly dancer, Wenceslas, and kickback illusions. December 12, 2006. Journal of vision.

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  24. Livingstone MS, Conway BR. Contrast affects speed tuning, space-time slant, and receptive-field organization of simple cells in macaque V1. November 15, 2006. Journal of neurophysiology.

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  25. Conway BR, Livingstone MS. Spatial and temporal properties of cone signals in alert macaque primary visual cortex. October 18, 2006. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  26. Duffy KR, Murphy KM, Frosch MP, Livingstone MS. Cytochrome oxidase and neurofilament reactivity in monocularly deprived human primary visual cortex. July 10, 2006. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991).

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  27. Yazdanbakhsh A, Livingstone MS. End stopping in V1 is sensitive to contrast. April 23, 2006. Nature neuroscience.

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  28. Tsao DY, Freiwald WA, Tootell RB, Livingstone MS. A cortical region consisting entirely of face-selective cells. February 3, 2006. Science (New York, N.Y.).

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  29. Pack CC, Conway BR, Born RT, Livingstone MS. Spatiotemporal structure of nonlinear subunits in macaque visual cortex. January 18, 2006. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  30. Howe PD, Livingstone MS. V1 partially solves the stereo aperture problem. November 23, 2005. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991).

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  31. Dougherty JD, Garcia AD, Nakano I, Livingstone M, Norris B, Polakiewicz R, Wexler EM, Sofroniew MV, Kornblum HI, Geschwind DH. PBK/TOPK, a proliferating neural progenitor-specific mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase. November 16, 2005. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  32. Conway BR, Livingstone MS. A different point of hue. July 26, 2005. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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  33. Conway BR, Kitaoka A, Yazdanbakhsh A, Pack CC, Livingstone MS. Neural basis for a powerful static motion illusion. June 8, 2005. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  34. Livingstone MS. Directional inhibition: a new slant on an old question. January 6, 2005. Neuron.

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  35. Duffy KR, Livingstone MS. Loss of neurofilament labeling in the primary visual cortex of monocularly deprived monkeys. November 24, 2004. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991).

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  36. Livingstone MS, Conway BR. Was Rembrandt stereoblind? September 16, 2004. The New England journal of medicine.

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  37. Pack CC, Livingstone MS, Duffy KR, Born RT. End-stopping and the aperture problem: two-dimensional motion signals in macaque V1. August 14, 2003. Neuron.

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  38. Tsao DY, Vanduffel W, Sasaki Y, Fize D, Knutsen TA, Mandeville JB, Wald LL, Dale AM, Rosen BR, Van Essen DC, Livingstone MS, Orban GA, Tootell RB. Stereopsis activates V3A and caudal intraparietal areas in macaques and humans. July 31, 2003. Neuron.

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  39. Duffy KR, Livingstone MS. Distribution of non-phosphorylated neurofilament in squirrel monkey V1 is complementary to the pattern of cytochrome-oxidase blobs. July 1, 2003. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991).

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  40. Livingstone MS, Conway BR. Substructure of direction-selective receptive fields in macaque V1. May 1, 2003. Journal of neurophysiology.

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  41. Conway BR, Livingstone MS. Space-time maps and two-bar interactions of different classes of direction-selective cells in macaque V-1. May 1, 2003. Journal of neurophysiology.

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  42. Tsao DY, Conway BR, Livingstone MS. Receptive fields of disparity-tuned simple cells in macaque V1. April 10, 2003. Neuron.

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  43. Pack CC, Born RT, Livingstone MS. Two-dimensional substructure of stereo and motion interactions in macaque visual cortex. February 6, 2003. Neuron.

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  44. Conway BR, Hubel DH, Livingstone MS. Color contrast in macaque V1. September 1, 2002. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991).

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  45. Margaret S Livingstone. Vision and Art: the Biology of Seeing January 1, 2002. Vision and Art: the Biology of Seeing.

  46. Livingstone MS, Pack CC, Born RT. Two-dimensional substructure of MT receptive fields. June 1, 2001. Neuron.

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  47. Livingstone MS. Is it warm? Is it real? Or just low spatial frequency? November 17, 2000. Science (New York, N.Y.).

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  48. Livingstone MS, Tsao DY. Receptive fields of disparity-selective neurons in macaque striate cortex. September 1, 1999. Nature neuroscience.

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  49. Macknik SL, Livingstone MS. Neuronal correlates of visibility and invisibility in the primate visual system. June 1, 1998. Nature neuroscience.

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  50. Livingstone MS. Mechanisms of direction selectivity in macaque V1. March 1, 1998. Neuron.

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  51. Livingstone MS. Oscillatory firing and interneuronal correlations in squirrel monkey striate cortex. June 1, 1996. Journal of neurophysiology.

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  52. Livingstone MS. Differences between stereopsis, interocular correlation and binocularity. April 1, 1996. Vision research.

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  53. Livingstone MS. Ocular dominance columns in New World monkeys. March 15, 1996. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  54. Livingstone MS, Freeman DC, Hubel DH. Visual responses in V1 of freely viewing monkeys. January 1, 1996. Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology.

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  55. Livingstone MS, Nori S, Freeman DC, Hubel DH. Stereopsis and binocularity in the squirrel monkey. February 1, 1995. Vision research.

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  56. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Stereopsis and positional acuity under dark adaptation. March 1, 1994. Vision research.

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  57. Galaburda A, Livingstone M. Evidence for a magnocellular defect in developmental dyslexia. June 14, 1993. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

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  58. Livingstone MS, Rosen GD, Drislane FW, Galaburda AM. Physiological and anatomical evidence for a magnocellular defect in developmental dyslexia. September 15, 1991. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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  59. Hubel DH, Livingstone MS. A comment on "Perceptual correlates of magnocellular and parvocellular channels: seeing form depth in afterimages". January 1, 1991. Vision research.

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  60. Hubel DH, Livingstone MS. Color and contrast sensitivity in the lateral geniculate body and primary visual cortex of the macaque monkey. July 1, 1990. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  61. Livingstone M. Segregation of form, color, movement, and depth processing in the visual system: anatomy, physiology, art, and illusion. January 1, 1990. Research publications - Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease.

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  62. Hubel D, Livingstone M. Color puzzles. January 1, 1990. Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology.

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  63. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Do the relative mapping densities of the magno- and parvocellular systems vary with eccentricity? November 1, 1988. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  64. Livingstone M, Hubel D. Segregation of form, color, movement, and depth: anatomy, physiology, and perception. May 6, 1988. Science (New York, N.Y.).

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  65. Livingstone MS. Art, illusion and the visual system. January 1, 1988. Scientific American.

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  66. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Connections between layer 4B of area 17 and the thick cytochrome oxidase stripes of area 18 in the squirrel monkey. November 1, 1987. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  67. Hubel DH, Livingstone MS. Segregation of form, color, and stereopsis in primate area 18. November 1, 1987. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  68. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Psychophysical evidence for separate channels for the perception of form, color, movement, and depth. November 1, 1987. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  69. Hubel DH, Livingstone MS. Complex-unoriented cells in a subregion of primate area 18. May 1, 1985. Nature.

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  70. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Spatial relationship and extrafoveal vision. May 1, 1985. Nature.

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  71. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Specificity of intrinsic connections in primate primary visual cortex. November 1, 1984. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  72. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Anatomy and physiology of a color system in the primate visual cortex. January 1, 1984. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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  73. Hubel DH, Livingstone MS. The 11th J.A.F. Stevenson memorial lecture. Blobs and color vision. December 1, 1983. Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology.

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  74. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Specificity of cortico-cortical connections in monkey visual system. August 1, 1983. Nature.

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  75. Land EH, Hubel DH, Livingstone MS, Perry SH, Burns MM. Colour-generating interactions across the corpus callosum. June 1, 1983. Nature.

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  76. Livingstone MS, Tempel BL. Genetic dissection of monoamine neurotransmitter synthesis in Drosophila. May 1, 1983. Nature.

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  77. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Thalamic inputs to cytochrome oxidase-rich regions in monkey visual cortex. October 1, 1982. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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  78. Livingstone MS, Hubel DH. Effects of sleep and arousal on the processing of visual information in the cat. June 18, 1981. Nature.

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  79. Livingstone MS, Schaeffer SF, Kravitz EA. Biochemistry and ultrastructure of serotonergic nerve endings in the lobster: serotonin and octopamine are contained in different nerve endings. January 1, 1981. Journal of neurobiology.

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  80. Kravitz EA, Glusman S, Harris-Warrick RM, Livingstone MS, Schwarz T, Goy MF. Amines and a peptide as neurohormones in lobsters: actions on neuromuscular preparations and preliminary behavioural studies. December 1, 1980. The Journal of experimental biology.

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  81. Livingstone MS, Harris-Warrick RM, Kravitz EA. Serotonin and octopamine produce opposite postures in lobsters. April 4, 1980. Science (New York, N.Y.).

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Harvard Medical School
Dept. of Neurobiology
200 Longwood Ave
Boston MA 02115