W. Dan Tracey

W. Dan Tracey

Associate Professor, Biology

Linda and Jack Gill Chair, Genome, Cell & Developmental Biology

  • dtracey@indiana.edu
  • (812) 856-2574
  • Multidisciplinary Science Building II 204
  • Office Hours
    By Appointment Only


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, California Institute of Technology, 1999-2004
  • Ph.D., SUNY Stony Brook, 1999
  • M.S., Florida International University, 1994
  • B.A., SUNY Buffalo, 1991


Research in the Tracey laboratory aims to understand the general principles that govern the specification and function of neuronal circuits. We study this problem using the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster whose relatively simplified nervous system must perform many of the same computations that are carried out by our own. Despite its simplified brain, Drosophila perform an array of complex behaviors. Powerful genetic tools of Drosophila enable the dissection of neural circuits with a precision that is not matched in any other model system. Genetically encoded calcium sensors allow us to measure the neuronal activity of identified neurons while neuronal silencers and activators allow us to determine the behavioral consequences of the same activity. Optogenetic tools allow us to activate behaviors via remote control by simply shining light on the animals. Our primary focus is to use the fly model to identify circuits and genes that function in nociception. These studies lead to a greater understanding pain signaling. In addition, we are attempting to identify the molecules that are used in neurosensory mechanotransduction, which underlies our sense of touch. Finally, we are attempting to build trans-synaptic tracers for use in Drosophila. These tools will enable visualization of interconnected circuits in the brain of flies and may eventually be extended to studies in mammals.