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Otis, Thomas

Otis, ThomasThomas Otis, Professor

Member, American Physiological Society, 2010
McKnight Technology Award, 2009
Member, Society for Neuroscience, 1990

Personal Website: Link

Office: 67625 CHS, Phone: 310.206.0746, Email




Thomas Otis is the Edith Agnes Plumb Endowed Professor and Chair in the Department of Neurobiology with a joint appointment in Electrical Engineering. He received his B.S. and M.Sc. degrees in Biological Sciences in 1988 and his Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience in 1993 all from Stanford University. After finishing his graduate program, Professor Otis was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and at the Vollum Institute in Oregon Health Sciences University.  In 1998, he started his appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology in the UCLA Medical Center.

Research Interests

Our brains accomplish (or sometimes fail at) their jobs by generating coordinated patterns of electrical signals in groups of nerve cells (neurons). Research in my laboratory focuses on the general question of how this coordination occurs. Circuits, single connections (synapses), and electrical properties particular to individual neurons combine to allow large groups of neurons to generate the specific firing patterns that ultimately result in thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In an effort to understand how the brain works at such a nuts and bolts level, we concentrate mainly on the cerebellum, a brain region responsible for coordinating movement. The cerebellum is a principal brain area involved in learning how to make precise and sequenced movements such as are required for playing a musical instrument or excelling at a sport. The cerebellum is also critical for ‘automatic’ movements such as postural adjustments to maintain balance or eye movements that allow redirection of gaze. The laboratory focuses on how neural circuits in the normal cerebellum contribute to motor coordination and we also study how cerebellar circuit function is degraded in mouse models of genetic diseases of the cerebellum, collectively termed ataxias. Finally, where necessary, we seek to develop and utilize new tools that allow optical approaches to complement standard electrophysiological techniques for studying circuits.

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2011-2014, Associate Editor, Journal of Neurophysiology
  • 2010, Member, American Physiological Society
  • 2009, McKnight Technology Award
  • 2007, Fellow, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
  • 1990, Member, Society for Neuroscience
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