Tom Koehnle, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology/Coordinator of Neuroscience Major

Tom Koenle



  • Ohio University (Biological Sciences) , B.S.
  • University of California, Davis (Animal Behavior), Ph.D.
  • University of Pittsburgh, Post Doctoral Scholar (Department of Neuroscience)

Courses Taught

  • Animal Behavior
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology

Research Interests

My fundamental research interest is in understanding how the behavior of an animal is shaped by information from within its body.

I study how animals receive information about their bodies and their surroundings, a process called “interoception.” Animals use interoception to learn about the quality of their diet. This includes information about energy, nutrients, contaminants, and toxins found in foods. They can then use this information to help them avoid low quality or dangerous foods, or decide to seek out new food sources.

Interoception can also provide information about risk and danger. Animals can select certain habitats, or make foraging decisions, based on their level of familiarity or fear in a given environment. For example, foraging in the open will tend to activate neural systems that detect and respond to their internal perception of risk.

I am also keenly interested in how changes in size and needs over the course of development affect animal behavior. Young animals growing in a protected nest have very different needs and abilities than adults. Thus, their interoceptive brain circuits should change in predictable ways as they age and gain new abilities.

My research spans multiple levels of analysis, from looking at behavior of wild animals in the field to basic neuroanatomical and physiological experiments done in the lab. My focus is on understanding the organism as a whole.

Why bother with any of this stuff? First, there is a basic scientific need to predict and understand how animals learn about what is happening inside their bodies and adjust their behavior to cope. Second, my focus on bodies, brains, and behavior is nested within a concern about intermediate timescales: integrating information over hours to months of experience. This scale of events has been rather neglected in research. Finally, alterations in the anatomy and function of interoceptive brain circuits have been linked to an array of psychiatric disorders in humans, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and functional bowel disorders. If we learn how these brain circuits work in animals, it will help us to understand how they work in people, and may lead to better treatments for a number of diseases and disorders.

Other Interests

  • Science fiction and fantasy, especially Ellison, Lem, Borges, and Pratchett.
  • History of almost any stripe, but especially the history of technology.
  • Statistics, particularly the history and application of different methods and models.

Selected Publications

  • Schank, J.C., Koehnle, T.J. (In Press) Pseudoreplication is a pseudo-problem. Journal of Comparative Psychology.
  • Koehnle, T.J. and Rinaman, L. (2007) Progressive postnatal increases in Fos immunoreactivity in the forebrain and brainstem of rats after viscerosensory stimulation with lithium chloride. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. 292: R1212-R1223.
  • Koehnle, T.J. (2005) The proof is not in the p-value. American Journal of
    Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. 288: R777.
  • Hao, S., Sharp, J.W., Ross, C.M., McDaniel, B.J., Anthony, T.G., Wek, R.C., Cavener, D.R., McGrath, B.C., Rudell, J.B., Koehnle, T.J., Gietzen, D.W. (2005) Uncharged tRNA and sensing of amino acid deficiency in mammalian piriform cortex. Science. 307: 1776-1778.
  • Koehnle, T.J., Stephens, A., & Gietzen, D.W. (2004) Threonine imbalanced diet alters first meal microstructure in rats. Physiology & Behavior. 81: 15-21.
  • Koehnle, T.J., Russell, M.C., Morin, A.S., Erecius, L.F., Gietzen, D.W. (2004) Diets deficient in indispensable amino acids rapidly decrease the concentration of the limiting amino acid in the anterior piriform cortex of rats. Journal of Nutrition 134: 2365-2371.
  • Sharp, J.W., Ross, C.M., Koehnle, T., Gietzen, D.W. (2004) Phosphorylation of Ca2+/ calmodulin-dependent protein kinase type II and the AMPA receptor in response to a threonine-devoid diet. Neuroscience. 126: 1053-1062.
  • Koehnle, T.J., Russell, M.C. & Gietzen, D.W. (2003) Rats rapidly reject diets deficient in essential amino acids. Journal of Nutrition 133: 2331-2335.
  • Russell, M.C., Koehnle, T.J., Barrett, J.A., Blevins, J.E., & Gietzen, D.W. (2003) The rapid anorectic response to a threonine imbalanced diet is decreased by injection of threonine into the anterior piriform cortex of rats. Nutritional Neuroscience 6: 247-251.
  • Blais, A., Huneau, J-F., Magrum, L.J., Koehnle, T.J., Sharp, J.W., Tome, D., & Gietzen, D.W. (2003) Threonine deprivation rapidly activates the System A amino acid transporter in primary cultures of rat neurons from the essential amino acid sensor in the anterior piriform cortex. Journal of Nutrition 133: 2156-2164.
  • Koehnle, T.J., & Schank, J.C. (2003) Power tools needed for the dynamical
    toolbox. Adaptive Behavior. 11: 291-293.
  • Koehnle, T.J., Brown, A. (1999) Slow axonal transport of neurofilament protein in cultured neurons. Journal of Cell Biology 144: 447-58.
  • Henley, W.N., Koehnle, T.J. (1997) Thyroid hormones and the treatment of depression: an examination of basic hormonal actions in the mature mammalian brain. Synapse 27: 36-44.