Academic Profile

Academic Profile

Assoc Prof Ajai Vyas


Associate Professor

School of Biological Sciences
College of Science

Email: AVYAS@NTU.EDU.SG
Phone: (+65)65137365
Office: SBS-02n-08

Education
  • PhD National Centre for Biological Sciences 2004
  • MSc Indian Agricultural Research Institute 1999
  • Bachelor (Hons) Rajasthan Agricultural University 1996
Biography
Assistant Professor Ajai Vyas is currently in the School of Biological Sciences since 2009. He received his Bachelor degree in Agriculture from Rajasthan Agricultural University, Master degree from Indian Agricultural Research Institute and Ph.D. degree from the National Center for Biological Science. His research interests include social behaviors and manipulation of host behavior by parasites.
Research Interests
The Ethoneuro Laboratory is a multidisciplinary research laboratory that works at the interface of neurobiology (approach and avoidance behaviours) and parasitology (behavioural manipulation of host by parasites). Majority of the work will relate to behavioural manipulation of rodents by Toxoplasma.

We are a research group within School of Biological Sciences at NTU. We are situated in the warm and welcoming environs of Singapore.

Our Research
Fear and attraction are evolutionary ancient parts of our psyche. Using animal models, we study how brain brings about these; and what happens when they get mixed up!

Our research program is inspired the fact that a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, can invade rat brain and removes deep-seated fears from a rat’s psyche. Why? So that parasite can hitch-hike a ride to cat intestines (when fearless rat is eaten by the cat) and reproduce there. This paradigm allows access to a really specific perturbation system for fear. In our lab, we try to learn how this parasite manages to make rats fearless.

Recently, we have observed that female rats prefer males infected with Toxoplasma over run-of-the-mill uninfected animals. This is interesting because females usually detect and detest parasitized males. A male teeming with parasites is infected because he likely has a poor immune defense, and thus a questionable genetic legacy. The fact that Toxoplasma can get around such evolutionary hard-wired behavior is exciting. We are now trying to learn the mechanisms of this effect.
Research Grant
  • Academic Research Fund Tier 1 (2014-)
  • Academic Research Fund Tier 1 (2016-)
  • Academic Research Fund Tier 1 (2017-) [by MOE]
Current Projects
  • Biological mechanisms in rat brain mediating attractive and aversive social behaviors
  • Carpe diem impulsivity: Optogenetic manipulation of the impulsive decision making in rodents
  • Discovering hormones and pheromones mediating mate choice
  • Neurobiology of Toxoplasma infection
  • Potential sexual transmission of Toxoplasma gondii in humans
  • Sexually dimoprhic mechanisms underlying behavioral change in rodent hosts after Toxoplasma infection
Selected Publications
  • Lim A, Kumar V, Hari Dass SA, Vyas A. (2013). Toxoplasma gondii infection enhances testicular steroidogenesis in rats. Molecular Ecology, 22(1), 102-110.

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