Ryan Darling, PhD

Assistant Professor
Adjunct Faculty, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Millsaps College
Office: R709
(601) 984-1642
Email: rdarling@umc.edu

Research interests

  • Flipped classroom approaches to medical education
  • Innovative and evidence-based approaches to teaching neuroscience
  • Using eye tracking to assess feature extraction and expertise

Current research 

I was trained as a behavioral neuroscientist at Miami University under Dr. Stephen Berry, where I researched the electrophysiological correlates of rabbit eyeblink classical conditioning. Specifically, I built moveable microdrives with multiple tetrode recording electrodes to analyze the response properties of neurons in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex while rabbits learned to associate a neutral tone stimulus with an airpuff to the eye. In addition, I used a brain-computer interface to trigger each trial in the explicit presence of a well-studied hippocampal local field potential termed theta (3-7Hz), which accelerated behavioral learning and the learning-related neural responses.

As a postdoctoral fellow working in the laboratory of Dr. Rick Lin at the UMMC, I researched the long-term neurobehavioral effects of perinatal antidepressant exposure in a rodent model of autism spectrum disorder. Specific areas of research focused on incorporating electrophysiological and immunohistochemical techniques to understand how monoaminergic neural systems (including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine) and their forebrain efferents are disrupted by exposure to antidepressants during critical periods of neurodevelopment.

I am now an educator scholar and concentrate my efforts on the scholarly teaching of anatomy to undergraduate medical students and applying my background of learning and memory to pedagogical research. As a result of my career transition, I am interested in establishing a laboratory that utilizes eye tracking and electroencephalography to better understand implicit mechanisms of feature extraction and developing expertise.

Selected publications

*In last four years

Peer-reviewed papers

  • Zhou X, Lu JYF, Darling RD, Simpson KL, Zhu X, Wang F, Yu L, Sun X, Merzenich M, Lin RCS (2015). Behavioral training reverses global cortical network dysfunction induced by perinatal antidepressant exposure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(7):2233-2238.
  • Cicchese JJ, Darling RD, Berry SD (2015). Pretrial hippocampal theta-state differentiates single-unit response profiles during rabbit trace eyeblink conditioning. Learning and Memory, 22:318-322.

Recent abstracts

  • Darling RD, Notebaert AJ, Lu Y, Conway ML, Maklad A, Sinning AR (2015). Assessing organizational changes to a first year medical gross anatomy dissection course. Poster presented at Experimental Biology, Boston, MA.
  • Williams SR, Notebaert AJ, Darling RD, Sinning AR (2015). Analysis of image and text-based medical gross anatomy exam questions administered using Examsoft. Poster presented at Experimental Biology, Boston, MA.
  • Darling RD, Lu Y, Conway ML, Maklad A, Sinning AR (2014). Assessing the emphasis of radiology in a first-year medical gross anatomy course. Poster presented at Experimental Biology, San Diego.