The bendesky lab

Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, E3B, Columbia University

What we do

The diversity of animal behavior is fascinating, yet we know little about how behavior evolves.
We take genetic, genomic, molecular, and neurobiological approaches to understand the mechanisms underlying the natural variation and evolution of behavior.
Our work focuses mostly on exploratory and social behaviors – like pair bonding and parental care – in Peromyscus mice, and on aggression in Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens).

© drawings of Betta sp. by Jordan Ahava


Bendesky Lab September 2023

Andrés Bendesky

Principal Investigator

Andrés got his MD from UNAM, Mexico, his PhD from Rockefeller University, and was a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow at Harvard. He is interested in how complex behaviors are generated by the brain and how they evolve.

Alec Palmiotti

Research Assistant

Alec received his BA from Oberlin College studying Neuroscience and Hispanic Studies. He is currently working on developing genetically modified Betta fish and helps coordinating the fish facility.

Sophie Lockwood

Research Assistant

Sophie received her BA in Neuroscience from Princeton, where she studied the female Drosophila connectome in Mala Murthy’s lab. She’s now studying the evolution of neuroendocrine systems in Peromyscus.

Christoph Gebhardt


Chris received his PhD from KIT in Germany and was a postdoc in Filippo Del Bene's lab in Paris. He aims to understand the neural basis of differences in parental care behavior in Peromyscus.

Pei-Yin Shih


Pei received her PhD from Caltech working in the lab of Paul Sternberg. She is studying the genetic basis of aggression in Betta splendens.

Jennifer Merritt


Jenny received her PhD from Emory University. She is studying the neural and genetic mechanisms of alternative life histories in closely related species of Peromyscus.

Joshua Greene


Josh received his MD from Cornell and a PhD from Rockefeller University. He is studying CNS regulation of the adrenomedullary system in Peromyscus.

Yuta Mabuchi


Yuta received his PhD from Cornell University. He is interested in studying the molecular and neuronal basis of parental behavior in Peromyscus.

Paula R. Villamayor


Paula received her PhD from the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). She is studying the neural and genetic mechanisms underlying socio-sexual behaviour in Betta fish.

Claire Everett

PhD Student (NBB program)

Claire received her BA from Barnard College. She is studying the visual cues critical for evoking aggression in Betta splendens. She is also interested in the neural circuits underlying Betta visual processing of aggression-inducing stimuli.

Kimberly Hernandez

PhD Student (NBB program)

Kim is a PhD student in the lab jointly supervised by Andrés and Steven Siegelbaum.

Wyatt Toure

PhD Student (E3B program)

Wyatt received his B.Sc. from Concordia University and his M.Sc. from McGill University. He is interested in the evolution of molecular mechanisms underlying adaptive phenotypes.

Riya Rampalli

Postbac Student

Riya received her B.S. in Environmental Science from Mills College, where she studied the stress levels of California Ground Squirrels. She is now working with Wyatt to understand the molecular basis of hybrid incompatibilities in Peromyscus mice.

Julio Bendesky

Lab Mascot

Julio is a dachshund and really good at detecting and retrieving food (that belongs to others).

Lab Alumni

Madison Lichak

Undergrad & Research Assistant, now Graduate Student in the Campbell-Staton Lab at Princeton

Young Mi Kwon

Research Assistant

Kerel Francis

Lab Manager and Research Assistant, now working as Lab Manager of the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases at Rockefeller

Jan-Niklas Runge

PhD student & Postdoc, now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Schacher Lab in Strasbourg, France

Amy Norovich

Postdoc, now a Scientist with the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Natalie Niepoth

First PhD student (E3B) to graduate from the lab, now a Senior Scientist at Regeneron

Wenxuan Dan

Master student, now a Data Mining Engineer at 51job

Yuqi Miao

Master student

Michelle Uminski

Master student, now a Research Scientist at Regeneron

Hiroki Tomida

Master student (E3B program), now a Junior Consultant at Roland Berger Consulting, Tokyo

Yuyang Zhu

Master student

Joseph Brew

Undergrad, now a Graduate Student in Computational Biology at Cambridge University, UK

Peter Lichtenthal


Emily Lei



Evolution of a novel adrenal cell type that promotes parental care
Niepoth N, Merritt JR, Uminski M, Lei E, Esquibies VS, Bando IB, Hernandez K, Gebhardt C, Wacker SA, Lutzu S, Poudel A, Soma KK, Rudolph S & Bendesky A
Nature. 2024 May 30

Scientific and media coverage
News and Views: Tollkuhn J. Parental-care puzzle in mice solved by thinking outside the brain Nature. 2024;629:1006-1008.
Elana Spivack. What Makes Some Mice Such Good Parents? This Newly Discovered Cell, Maybe. Inverse. May 15, 2024.
Judith de Jorge. Hallan un nuevo tipo de célula que promueve el cuidado parental. Diario ABC. May 17 2024.
Mark Johnson. Some mice have a cheating heart. It’s a hormonal thing, scientists find. The Washington Post. May 16 2024.

The Evolution of Neurons
Bendesky A
Kandel Quarterly, Aug 8 2023. McGraw Hill, 2023. AccessNeurology

The main genetic locus associated with the evolution of gamecocks is centered on ISPD
Bendesky A, Brew J, Francis KX, Corbetto EFT, González Ariza A, Nogales Baena S, Shimmura T
G3 (Bethesda). 2023 Nov 22

Media coverage
Miriam Bergeret. A genome-wide association study published in G3: Genes | Genomes | Genetics offers insights into the genetic origins of aggression in gamecocks. Genes to Genomes. April 4, 2024.

Genetic manipulation of betta fish
Palmiotti A, Lichak MR, Shih PY, Kwon YM, Bendesky A
Front Genome Ed. 2023 Jul 21;5:1167093

Post-mating parental behavior trajectories differ across four species of deer mice
Khadraoui M, Merritt JR, Hoekstra HE, Bendesky A
PLoS ONE 2022 Oct 17;17(10)

Sexual Dimorphism in Brain and Behavior
Bendesky A
Kandel Quarterly, Aug 9 2022. McGraw Hill, 2022. AccessNeurology

Parent-offspring inference in inbred populations
Runge JN, König B, Lindholm AK, Bendesky A
Mol Ecol Resour. 2022 Jun 29

Care and use of Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) for research
Lichak MR, Barber JR, Kwon YM, Francis KX, Bendesky A
Comp Med. 2022 Jun 14;72(3):169-180

Genomic consequences of domestication of the Siamese fighting fish
Kwon YM, Vranken N, Hoge C, Lichak MR, Norovich AL, Francis KX, Camacho-Garcia J, Bista I, Wood J, McCarthy S, Chow W, Tan HH, Howe K, Bandara S, von Lintig J, Rüber L, Durbin R, Svardal H, Bendesky A
Sci Adv. 2022 Mar 11;8(10):abm4950

Media coverage
Annie Roth. The 1,000-Year Secret That Made Betta Fish Beautiful. New York Times. May 14, 2021.
Sarah Zhang. The Surprise Hiding in the DNA of Pet Fish. The Atlantic. May 14, 2021.
Christie Wilcox. My Daughter’s First Pet—the Next Big Model Organism? The Scientist. Jul 15, 2021.

How the mind affects the body
Bendesky A
Kandel Quarterly, Jul 8 2021. McGraw Hill, 2021. AccessNeurology

The neurobiology and evolution of niche preferences
Bendesky A
Kandel Quarterly, Oct 13 2021. McGraw Hill, 2021. AccessNeurology

Loop-mediated isothermal amplification detection of SARS-CoV-2 and myriad other applications
Moore KJM, Cahill J, … Bendesky A, … Mason CE, The gLAMP Consortium
J Biomol Tech. 2021 Sep;32(3):228-275

WHotLAMP: A simple, inexpensive, and sensitive molecular test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in saliva
Ng D, Pinharanda A, Vogt MC… Bendesky A
PLoS ONE 2021 Sep 16 16(9):e0257464

How natural genetic variation shapes behavior
Niepoth N, Bendesky A
Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2020 Apr 13

Generation, coordination, and evolution of neural circuits for vocal communication
Kelley DB, Ballagh IH, Barkan CL, Bendesky A, Elliott TM, Evans BJ, Hall IC, Kwon YM, Kwong-Brown U, Leininger EC, Perez EC, Rhodes HJ, Villain A, Yamaguchi A, Zornik E
J Neurosci. 2020 Jan 2;40 (1) 22-36.

The genetic basis of parental care evolution in monogamous mice
Bendesky A, Kwon YM, Lassance J, Lewarch CL, Yao S, Peterson BK, He MX, Dulac C, Hoekstra HE
Nature. 2017 Apr 27;544(7651):434-9.

Scientific and media coverage
News and Views: Phelps SM. Animal behaviour: How to build a better dad. Nature. 2017;544:418–419.
Snyder-Mackler M, Tung J. Vasopressin and the Neurogenetics of Parental Care. Neuron. 2017;95:9-11
Hager R. The Genes That Make a Good Parent. Trends in Genetics. 2017;33:492-494.
Carl Zimmer. Why Are Some Mice (and People) Monogamous? A Study Points to Genes. New York Times. April 19, 2017.
Andrea Marks. The Mouse Parent Trap. Scientific American. July 2017.

Long-range regulatory polymorphisms affecting a GABA receptor constitute a quantitative trait locus (QTL) for social behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans
Bendesky A, Pitts J, Rockman MV, Chen WC, Tan MW, Kruglyak L, Bargmann CI
PLoS Genet. 2012;8(12):e1003157.

Genetic contributions to behavioural diversity at the gene-environment interface
Bendesky A, Bargmann CI
Nat Rev Genet. 2011 Nov 8;12(12):809-20.

Catecholamine receptor polymorphisms affect decision-making in C. elegans
Bendesky A, Tsunozaki M, Rockman MV, Kruglyak L, Bargmann CI
Nature. 2011 Apr 21;472(7343):313-8.

GFP Reconstitution Across Synaptic Partners (GRASP) defines cell contacts and synapses in living nervous systems
Feinberg EH, Vanhoven MK, Bendesky A, Wang G, Fetter RD, Shen K, Bargmann CI
Neuron. 2008 Feb 7;57(3):353-63.


May 1: We published a pre-print about aggressive visual communication in Siamese fighting fish on bioRxiv

April 4: The blog of the Genetics Society of America covered our paper on evolution of gamecocks.

March 10: Wyatt won the poster prize at the TAGC meeting in Washington, DC!!! We are so proud of you. :)

January 15: Paula joins the lab as postdoc. Welcome, Paula!


December 13: Columbia magazine's coverage of our work to identify neural circuits for aggression in Betta fish

December 8: ZI's coverage of Claire Everett's work Investigating Aggression in Betta fish

December 6: ZI's coverage of our new paper about the genomics of fighting and nongame chicken

October 16: Yuta joins the lab as postdoc. Welcome, Yuta!

August 21: We published a pre-print about the genomics of fighting and nongame chicken on bioRxiv

August 8: Pei received a prestigious NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99). So proud of you, Pei. :-)

July 21: The lab's paper on genetic manipulation in betta fish is out in
Frontiers in Genome Editing. Awesome work, everyone. :-)

March 27: Amy received a prestigious NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99). Congratulations, Amy. :-)

February 16: We published a pre-print about genetic manipulation of betta fish on bioRxiv


October 17: The lab's paper about parental behavior trajectories in four species of Peromyscus is out in

March 11: The lab's paper about genomic consequences of Betta fish domestication is finally out in Science Advances. Congratulations, everyone. :-)

February 1: Joseph received a prestigious Kellett Fellowship to pursue a MPhil in Computational Biology at Cambridge University, UK. Congratulations, Joseph. :-)


November 24: We published a new pre-print on biorxiv on how to infer Parent-offspring relationships in inbred populations.

September 1: Wyatt joins the lab as PhD student in the E3B program. Welcome, Wyatt!

June 28: Alec joins the lab as research assistant. Welcome, Alec!

April 30: The lab's first ever pre-print was uploaded on biorxiv. It is about the genomic consequences of Betta fish domestication.

March 15: Josh joins the lab as a postdoc. Welcome, Josh!

February 17: The new TWIN about the connection between the Microbiome and Neurodevelopment is out.


December 3: Jenny is selected as a Junior Fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows. Congratulations, Jenny!

October 1: Jenny joins the lab as postdoc. Welcome, Jenny!

August 1: Jan re-joins the lab as postdoc supported by a Early Postdoc.Mobility Fellowship of the Swiss National Science Foundation. Congratulations and welcome back, Jan!

April 18: The new TWIN Podcast is out, this time talking about Anosmia connected to Covid-19.

April 13: New review article published on how behavior is being shaped by genetic variation

April 1: Elaine was admitted to the Laidlaw Undergraduate Research Program to support her work in the lab during the summer. Congratulations, Elaine!

March 31: Kimberly received an Honorable Mention for the NSF GRFP. Congratulations, Kim!

January 9: Andrés again joins the TWIN Podcast covering ACBARs, virus-like capsids that transfer genetic information between neurons

January 2: Review article with Darcy Kelley on vocal communication in Xenopus frogs published


November 5: Andrés talks about work in the lab and about synaptic transmission and plasticity in the new Podcast "This Week In Neuroscience" (TWIN)

August 29: Magdalen and her work are featured on the Barnard College youtube channel.

August 16: Pei-Yin starts her postdoc in the lab, Hiroki (E3B MA Program) joins the lab

August 1: Kim (NB&B) starts her PhD in the lab

April 1: Christoph starts his postdoc in the lab.

March 31: Claire received an Honorable Mention for the NSF GRFP. Congratulations, Claire!

February 19: Andrés is named a 2019 Sloan Research Fellow in Neuroscience. News here

February 1: Young Mi joins the lab as Research Assistant

January: Amy is selected as a Junior Fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows. Congratulations, Amy!


August 20: Claire (NB&B) joins the lab as PhD student

July 1: Madison re-joins the lab as Research Assistant

May 15: Andrés is awarded a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award in Neuroscience

April 4: Andrés is named a Searle Scholar. News here

March 19: Amy starts her postdoc in the lab

March 1: Emily joins the lab for her undergraduate thesis

January 15: Magdalen joins the lab as part of her senior neuroscience thesis project


September 1: Natalie (E3B) starts her PhD in the lab, Madison joins the lab for her undergraduate thesis

August 1: Lab opens


Andrés Bendesky
Jerome L. Greene Science Center
Columbia University
3227 Broadway, Room L3.051
New York, NY 10027
[email protected]