jessica jones

me

I'm a behavioral neuroscientist.

Currently, I'm a Ph.D. Candidate in Dr. John Tuthill's lab at the University of Washington, and plan to graduate Fall 2025.

I am a 2018 UC Santa Cruz alum. For two years following my undergraduate career, I worked as a research specialist at the University of Pennsylvania in Dr. Ishmail Abdus-Saboor's Lab. I developed new, more objective assays and computational tools to assess acute and chronic pain states in rodent models.

Now, in my graduate career, I hope to develop a strategy to delineate reflexive and affective neuronal pathways downstream of Drosophila nociceptors via behavioral experiments and comprehensive neural circuit reconstruction.

fly

Central Question: Do flies feel pain?

This is a hot question today in neuroscience, and I seek to answer this by identifying neural circuits that mediate pain-like behaviors in the fruit fly.

The ability to detect damaging mechanical stimuli is one of the most important functions of the nervous system. This ability, called nociception, is conserved throughout the animal kingdom and drives behaviors such as contextual aversion and locomotive changes. In humans, nociception underlies subjective feelings of discomfort, referred to as affective pain. In comparison, reflexive pain is the rapid behavioral response to nociceptive stimulation.

This phenomenon in Drosophila larvae is well-characterized. However, the mechanisms underlying adult Drosophila nociception remains elusive. Due to the difficulty of measuring complex internal states in non-human animals, disentangling the neural pathways and mechanisms that distinguish reflexive vs. affective pain remains challenging.

I will reconstruct the anatomy and connectivity of nociceptive circuits in the fly’s central nervous system. I will then combine circuit reconstruction, optogenetic manipulations, and automated measurements of fly behavior to investigate how nociceptive signals are integrated in the fly brain to mediate responses to nociception.

Awards

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship (2022)

NSFGRFP Honorable Mention, Life Sciences - Neurosciences (2022)

NIH T32 Predoctoral Training Program in the Neurosciences (2020-21)

...see the rest of my CV here!