Photo of Garet P. Lahvis, Ph.D.

Garet P. Lahvis Ph.D.

  • (503) 346-0820
    • Associate Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience School of Medicine
    • Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program School of Medicine
    • Neuroscience Graduate Program School of Medicine

Mammals often communicate about perceived changes in their external environment: detection of a predator, a prey, or another conspecific and the signal their emotional response: fear, anticipation, anger, social anticipation. Essential for individual wellbeing and survival in humans and other mammals, these abilities involve emotions, expressing them, detecting them in others, and interpreting them correctly. My laboratory studies how social behaviors expressed in response to environmental changes communicate emotions and social understanding. We have employed cue-conditioned fear paradigms to identify empathy in juvenile mice and conditioned place preference testing to discover that young mice and ground squirrels derive pleasure from living with their adolescent peers.

Our experiments are stepping outside the lab and into natural environments.  Animals raised inside laboratory cages are deprived of social refuge, freedom to explore novel objects and environments, and opportunities to make decisions that come with rewarding and aversive consequences. In nature, their wild and feral conspecifics experience the spatial and temporal complexity relevant to healthy brain development and human experience. We study wildlife, often ground squirrels because, like humans, they sense their environment predominantly through visual and auditory cues. We discovered that captive ‘asocial’ juvenile ground squirrels derive pleasure from access to social living.  Through lab and field studies, we identified a putative ‘camaraderie effect,’ a proximal mechanism for altruism whereby helping others increases psychological access to social rewards that in turn, promotes physiological health.

We also study how children respond to social situations portrayed through stories. We use animated stories to learn where children pay attention while observing a dynamic social situation. We ask how they respond emotionally to the trials and accomplishments of a story character, how they imitate, and how they comprehend stories. We are particularly interested in how these social abilities develop with maturation. We ask how variations in behavioral and physiological responses to social situations, when measured objectively and at fine-scale, can be used to characterize individual differences in social temperament. 

Of current interest are the inadvertent effects of laboratory housing on animal neurodevelopment and how we can ascertain the effects of environmental confinement on cognition, affective experience, and animal subject wellbeing. 

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Areas of interest

  • Altruism
  • Social motivation
  • Vocal communication
  • Empathy
  • Ground squirrels
  • Self-recognition
  • Eye-gaze


  • "Three-dimensional reconstruction from serial sections in PC-Windows platform by using 3D_Viewer" Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine November 2004
  • "Social influences on morphine-conditioned place preference in adolescent BALB/cJ and C57BL/6J mice" Psychopharmacology February 2012
  • "The cyclic AMP phenotype of fragile X and autism" Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews October 2008
  • "Resistance to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin toxicity and abnormal liver development in mice carrying a mutation in the nuclear localization sequence of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor" Journal of Biological Chemistry May 16 2003
  • "In-vitro lymphocyte response of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)" Marine Environmental Research  1993
  • "Affiliative behavior, ultrasonic communication and social reward are influenced by genetic variation in adolescent mice" PLoS One April 4 2007
  • "Large-scale topology and the default mode network in the mouse connectome" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America December 30 2014
  • "Abnormal liver development and resistance to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin toxicity in mice carrying a mutation in the DNA-Binding domain of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor" Toxicological Sciences November 2008
  • "Differential entrainment of a social rhythm in adolescent mice" Behavioural Brain Research December 22 2008
  • "Induction of Germinal Center B Cell Markers in Vitro by Activated CD4+ T Lymphocytes" Journal of Immunology August 15 1997
  • "Contaminants and trends in fall run coho salmon"   1988
  • "The autism diagnosis in translation" Autism Research October 2011
  • "Empathy is moderated by genetic background in mice" PLoS One February 11 2009
  • "Rodent empathy and affective neuroscience" Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews October 2011
  • "Social interactions in the clinic and the cage"   2011
  • "Current practices in a captive breeding colony of 13-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus)" Lab Animal November 2012
  • "Purified viable fat suspended in matrigel improves volume longevity" Aesthetic Surgery Journal January 2008
  • "Decreased lymphocyte responses in free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are associated with increased concentrations of PCBs and DDT in peripheral blood" Environmental Health Perspectives  1995
  • "Statement from the work session on Environmentally Induced Alterations in Development" Environmental Health Perspectives  1995
  • "Diagnosing domoic acid toxicosis in the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) using behavioral criteria" Zoo Biology July 1 2015
  • "Ahr null alleles" Biochemical Pharmacology  1998
  • "Effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on social development in mice" Developmental Neuroscience  2014
  • "The cyclic AMP cascade is altered in the fragile X nervous system" PLoS One September 26 2007
  • "Translating mouse vocalizations" Genes, Brain and Behavior February 2011
  • "Social conditioned place preference in the captive ground squirrel (Ictidomys Tridecemlineatus)" Journal of comparative psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983) August 1 2015
  • "An experimental model for improving fat graft viability and purity" Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery April 2007
  • "Social reward among juvenile mice" Genes, Brain and Behavior October 2007
  • "Age-dependent and strain-dependent influences of morphine on mouse social investigation behavior" Behavioural Pharmacology April 2011
  • "In vitro adipogenic differentiation of preadipocytes varies with differentiation stimulus, culture dimensionality, and scaffold composition" Tissue Engineering - Part A. November 1 2009
  • "The aryl hydrocarbon receptor is required for developmental closure of the ductus venosus in the neonatal mouse" Molecular Pharmacology March 2005

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