Biology Department

J. Matthew Kittelberger

Associate Professor




Campus Box 0392


Science Center
Room 259
300 North Washington St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325-1400


BA Harvard University (biochemistry), 1990
PhD Duke University (neurobiology), 2002

Academic Focus

Neurobiology: physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, and comparative evolution of brain circuits for vocal communication

To both scientists and the larger public, the inner workings of the brain poses one of the most compelling and complex unsolved problems in science. Great progress has been made over the past century in understanding the physiology, biochemistry, and molecular genetics of nerve cell function; how these cells communicate by electrical and chemical signals; how different parts of the brain are connected; and how these connections form during development. Yet fundamental questions remain about how the brain mediates behavior, perception, learning, and consciousness; how the interplay between genetics and experience shapes brain development; and the mechanisms of many serious and debilitating disorders of brain function.

My own work explores the neural circuits involved in vocal communication in toadfish. These fish hum, grunt, and growl to attract mates and warn off competitors, as do many vertebrates. Interestingly, the same neural circuits that drive vocal communication in fish appear to underlie vocalization in birds and mammals, including humans. So by understanding how these circuits work in fish, we hope to gain a clearer picture of how these circuits have evolved, and how they might operate in us. I, and students in my lab, use a variety of techniques to examine the anatomical connectivity of these circuits, to record and analyze the electrical activity of neurons in these circuits contributing to vocal behaviors, and to examine the neurochemistry of the vocal circuit.

Courses Taught:  BIO 112 (Form and Function), BIO 212 (Cell Biology), BIO 335 (Neurobiology), FYS 122 (Autism First-Year Seminar), Independent Research (BIO 460, etc)

Recent Publications:

Goebrecht, G.K.E.*, Kowtoniuk, R.A.*, Kelly, B.G.*, & J.M. Kittelberger. (2014) Sexually-dimorphic expression of tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity in the brain of a vocal teleost fish (Porichthys notatus). Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy.  56: 13-34.

         Kittelberger, J.M. and A.H. Bass. (2013) Vocal-motor and auditory connectivity of the midbrain periaqueductal gray in a teleost fish.  Journal of Comparative Neurology.  521: 791-812.

(* = Gettysburg Undergraduate co-author)