Dr Swidbert R. Ott

Lecturer in Animal Biology











Adrian Building, Room 301

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3479

Fax: +44 (0)116 252 3330

Email: so120@le.ac.uk

Personal details

  • Behavioural Neuroscience
  • Phenotypic Plasticity
  • Locust Phase Change
  • Brains and Behaviour
  • Comparative Neuroanatomy


  • BS3064 Comparative Neurobiology
  • BS1070 Adaptation and Diversity
  • BS2066 Behavioural Neuroscience
  • BS2077 Neurobiology and Animal Behaviour (Module Convenor)


Rogers SM, Ott SR. Differential activation of serotonergic neurones during short- and long-term gregarisation of desert locusts. Proc. Biol. Sci., in press.

Montgomery SH, Ott SR. Brain composition in Godyris zavaleta, a diurnal butterfly, reflects an increased reliance on olfactory information. J. Comp. Neurol., in press.

Rogers SM, Cullen DA, Anstey ML, Burrows M, Despland E, Dodgson T, Matheson T, Ott SR, Stettin K, Sword GA, Simpson SJ. Rapid behavioural gregarization in the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria entails synchronous changes in both activity and attraction to conspecifics. 2014 Jun (Epub 2014 Apr 21); J. Insect Physiol. 65(100):9–26.
PubMed PMID: 24768842; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4062946.

Simões PM, Niven JE, Ott SR. Phenotypic transformation affects associative learning in the desert locust. 2013 Dec 2 (Epub 2013 Nov 21); Curr. Biol. 23(23):2407–12.
PubMed PMID: 24268415. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4024192.

Niven JE, Ott SR, Rogers SM. Visually targeted reaching in horse-head grasshoppers. 2012 Sep 22 (epub 2012 Jul 4); Proc. Biol. Sci. 279(1743):3697–705.
PubMed PMID: 22764161; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3415905.

Simões PM, Ott SR, Niven JE. A long-latency aversive learning mechanism enables locusts to avoid odours associated with the consequences of ingesting toxic food. 2012 May 15; J. Exp. Biol. 215(Pt 10):1711–9.
PubMed PMID: 22539738.

Ott SR, Verlinden H, Rogers SM, Brighton CH, Quah PS, Vleugels RK, Verdonck R, Vanden Broeck J. Critical role for protein kinase A in the acquisition of gregarious behavior in the desert locust. 2012 Feb 14 (epub 2011 Dec 19); Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109(7):E381–7.
PubMed PMID: 22184243; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3289381.

Burrows M, Rogers SM, Ott SR. Epigenetic remodelling of brain, body and behaviour during phase change in locusts. 2011 Jul 26; Neural Syst. Circuits 1(1):11.
PubMed PMID: 22330837; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3314403.

Badisco L, Ott SR, Rogers SM, Matheson T, Knapen D, Vergauwen L, Verlinden H, Marchal E, Sheehy MR, Burrows M, Vanden Broeck J. Microarray-based transcriptomic analysis of differences between long-term gregarious and solitarious desert locusts. 2011 (epub 2011 Nov 23); PLoS One 6(11):e28110.
PubMed PMID: 22132225; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3223224.

Simões P, Ott SR, Niven JE. Associative olfactory learning in the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria. 2011 Aug 1; J. Exp. Biol. 214(Pt15):2495–503.
PubMed PMID: 21753041.

Münch D, Ott SR, Pflüger HJ. Three-dimensional distribution of NO sources in a primary mechanosensory integration center in the locust and its implications for volume signaling. 2010 Aug 1; J. Comp. Neurol. 518(15):2903–16.
PubMed PMID: 20533352.

Ott SR, Rogers SM. Gregarious desert locusts have substantially larger brains with altered proportions compared with the solitarious phase. 2010 Oct 22 (epub 2010 May 27); Proc. Biol. Sci. 277(1697):3087–96.
PubMed PMID: 20507896; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2982065.

Blackburn LM, Ott SR, Matheson T, Burrows M, Rogers SM. Motor neurone responses during a postural reflex in solitarious and gregarious desert locusts. 2010 Aug (epub 2010 Apr 29); J. Insect Physiol. 56(8):902–10.
PubMed PMID: 20416321.

Anstey ML, Rogers SM, Ott SR, Burrows M, Simpson SJ. Serotonin mediates behavioral gregarization underlying swarm formation in desert locusts. 2009 Jan 30; Science 323(5914):627–30.
PubMed PMID: 19179529.

Ott SR. Confocal microscopy in large insect brains: zinc-formaldehyde fixation improves synapsin immunostaining and preservation of morphology in whole-mounts. J. Neurosci. Methods 2008 Jul 30; 172(2):220–30. Epub 2008 May 20.
PubMed PMID: 18585788.

Ott SR, Aonuma H, Newland PL, Elphick MR. Nitric oxide synthase in crayfish walking leg ganglia: segmental differences in chemo-tactile centers argue against a generic role in sensory integration. J. Comp. Neurol. 2007 Mar 20;501(3):381–99.
PubMed PMID: 17245703.

Ott SR, Philippides A, Elphick MR, O'Shea M. Enhanced fidelity of diffusive nitric oxide signalling by the spatial segregation of source and target neurones in the memory centre of an insect brain. Eur. J. Neurosci. 2007 Jan;25(1):181–90.
PubMed PMID: 17241279.

Philippides A, Ott SR, Husbands P, Lovick TA, O'Shea M. Modeling cooperative volume signaling in a plexus of nitric-oxide-synthase-expressing neurons. J. Neurosci. 2005 Jul 13;25(28):6520–32.
PubMed PMID: 16014713.

Kurylas AE, Ott SR, Schachtner J, Elphick MR, Williams L, Homberg U. Localization of nitric oxide synthase in the central complex and surrounding midbrain neuropils of the locust Schistocerca gregaria. J. Comp. Neurol. 2005 Apr 4;484(2):206–23.
PubMed PMID: 15736229.

Korneev SA, Straub V, Kemenes I, Korneeva EI, Ott SR, Benjamin PR, O'Shea M. Timed and targeted differential regulation of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and anti-NOS genes by reward conditioning leading to long-term memory formation. J. Neurosci. 2005 Feb 2;25(5):1188–92.
PubMed PMID: 15689555.

Ott SR, Delago A, Elphick MR. An evolutionarily conserved mechanism for sensitization of soluble guanylyl cyclase reveals extensive nitric oxide-mediated upregulation of cyclic GMP in insect brain. Eur. J. Neurosci. 2004 Sep;20(5):1231–44.
PubMed PMID: 15341595.

van Staaden MJ, Rieser M, Ott SR, Pabst MA, Römer H. Serial hearing organs in the atympanate grasshopper Bullacris membracioides (Orthoptera, Pneumoridae). J. Comp. Neurol. 2003 Oct 27;465(4):579–92.
PubMed PMID: 12975817.

Ott SR, Elphick MR. New techniques for whole-mount NADPH-diaphorase histochemistry demonstrated in insect ganglia. J. Histochem. Cytochem. 2003 Apr;51(4):523–32.
PubMed PMID: 12642631.

Römer H, Hedwig B, Ott SR. Contralateral inhibition as a sensory bias: the neural basis for a female preference in a synchronously calling bushcricket, Mecopoda elongata. Eur. J. Neurosci. 2002 May;15(10):1655–62.
PubMed PMID: 12059973.

Wildman M, Ott SR, Burrows M. GABA-like immunoreactivity in nonspiking interneurons of the locust metathoracic ganglion. J. Exp. Biol. 2002 Dec;205(Pt 23):3651–9.
PubMed PMID: 12409491.

Ott SR, Elphick MR. Nitric oxide synthase histochemistry in insect nervous systems: Methanol/formalin fixation reveals the neuroarchitecture of formaldehyde-sensitive NADPH diaphorase in the cockroach Periplaneta americana. J. Comp. Neurol. 2002 Jun 24;448(2):165–85.
PubMed PMID: 12012428.

Ott SR, Jones IW, Burrows M, Elphick MR. Sensory afferents and motor neurons as targets for nitric oxide in the locust. J. Comp. Neurol. 2000 Jul 10;422(4):521–32.
PubMed PMID: 10861524.

Ott SR, Burrows M. NADPH diaphorase histochemistry in the thoracic ganglia of locusts, crickets, and cockroaches: species differences and the impact of fixation. J. Comp. Neurol. 1999 Aug 2;410(3):387–97.
PubMed PMID: 10404407.

Ott SR, Burrows M. Nitric oxide synthase in the thoracic ganglia of the locust: distribution in the neuropiles and morphology of neurones. J. Comp. Neurol. 1998 Jun 1;395(2):217–30.
PubMed PMID: 9603374.

Ott SR. Acquisition of high-resolution digital images in video microscopy: automated image mosaicking on a desktop microcomputer. Microsc. Res. Tech. 1997 Aug 1;38(3):335–9.
PubMed PMID: 9264345.


I am interested in how the behaviour of an animal is shaped by the interactions between its evolutionary history, its individual history (past experience), and the present environment that it finds itself in. Some major themes in my current work are

  • what molecular, neuronal and neurochemical mechanisms mediate phenotypic plasticity of behaviour
  • how the capacity for behavioural plasticity is itself plastic, and modified by experience, on the phylogenetic and ontogenetic scale
  • how simple mechanistic rules and environmental feedback mechanisms facilitate the coordination of adaptive behaviour
  • what changes in brain structure underpin adaptive behavioural changes














Stephen Montgomery and I have a paper in press in The Journal of Comparative Neurology on how different life styles have shaped the evolution of butterfly brains. Unlike their cousins, the moths, typical butterflies are active in bright daylight and therfore strongly visual animals. Here we have studied the brain of Godyris zavaleta, a species of butterfly that lives in the shade of its neotropical forest habitat, and in which the males produce plant-derived pheromones for communication.

We found that the Godyris brain is half-way between nocturnal moths and typical butterflies in terms of the size of its visual and olfatory centres. Moreover, we discovered the first known instance in butterflies of a male-specific 'macro-glomerular complex' (MGC) in the antennal lobe. MGCs are specialisations that support the detection of a particular scent. They are commonly found in insects where a particular scent has a specific and important role in guiding behaviour.

Portrait of a Desert locust, with a view of the brain (yellow) within the head; the brain image was obtained by computer-assisted laser scanning microscopy.

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University of Leicester
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T: +44 (0)116 252 2922
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