Sunny K. Boyd Professor

Behavioral Neuroendocrinology
Sunny K. Boyd

Research Interests:

The long-term objective of my research program is to identify the interactions among chemical messengers that control behaviors. Neuropeptides regulate social behaviors in representative species from all vertebrate classes. Species differences in behavior, however, have made development of clear mechanistic models difficult. Our current laboratory projects address the complexity of behavioral mechanisms using a combination of laboratory and field experiments and computational models.

Our laboratory studies focus on the mechanisms of action of neuropeptides, neurotransmitters and neuroactive steroids. Results of these projects provide better understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of vertebrate behaviors. Our field studies address important emerging questions on neuropeptide modulation of affiliative and aggressive behaviors. Our third research approach involves synthetic experiments with agent-based computational models which allow exploration of conditions impractical or impossible in empirical tests. The models are expected to propose new mechanisms for neurochemical control of behavior. These projects thus implement a tight experiment-model-experiment loop and focus on the development of a new paradigm for a systems biology approach to understanding social behavior.



  • Professor, University of Notre Dame, IN 1987-Present
  • Associate Vice President for Research, University of Notre Dame, IN 2009-2013
  • Director of Graduate Studies and Admissions, Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 2008-2013
  • Ph.D., Oregon State University (specialty in Neuroendocrinology), Corvallis, OR 1987
  • M.S., Oregon State University (specialty in Behavioral Endocrinology), Corvallis, OR 1984
  • A.B., Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 1981


Selected Professional Activities:

  • Associate Editor and member Editorial Board for the journal General and Comparative Endocrinology 2000-Present
  • Member Editorial Board for the journal, Hormones and Behavior 2000-Present
  • Member of the Committee of Visitors for NSF Integrative and Organismal Systems 2014
  • Notre Dame faculty representative to the Federal Demonstration Partnership 2011-Present
  • Faculty mentor for NIH BRAD program at Swarthmore College 2013-Present
  • Member Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Advisory Board 2011-2013
  • Member University of Notre Dame Academic Council (2014-present, member executive committee; 2004-2005, member executive committee, chair graduate affairs subcommittee)
  • Member University of Notre Dame College of Science faculty council 2007-2010; 2012-2018


Recent Papers:

  • Scheutz, M., Smiley, M., and Boyd, S.K. (2013) Exploring male spatial placement strategies in a biologically plausible mating task. 2013 IEEE Symposium on Artificial Life (ALife), p. 113-119.
  • Boyd, S.K. (2013) Neurohypophysial peptides. Chapter 52 in: The Handbook of Biologically Active Peptides, second edition, edited by A. Kastin, Elsevier. Pages: 371-375.
  • Boyd, S.K. (2013) Vasotocin modulation of social behaviors in amphibians. Chapter 6 in: Oxytocin, Vasopressin and Related Peptides in the Regulation of Behavior, edited by E. Choleris, D. Pfaff and M. Kavaliers, Cambridge University Press. Pages: 97-109.
  • Scheutz, M., Harris, J., and Boyd, S.K. (2010) How to pick the right one: investigating tradeoffs among female mate choice strategies in treefrogs. FROM ANIMALS TO ANIMATS 11; Book Series: Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence. Editor(s): Doncieux S; Girard B; Guillot A; Hallam J; Meyer JA; Mouret JB. Volume: 6226 Pages: 618-627.
  • Huynh, P. and Boyd, S.K. (2007) Nitric oxide synthase and NADPH diaphorase distribution in the bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) CNS: pathways and functional implications. Brain, Behavior, and Evolution 70:145-163.
  • Asay, M.J. and Boyd, S.K. (2006) Pharmacological characterization of the binding of [3H]CGP54626 to GABAB receptors in the male bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana). Brain Research 1094:76-85.
  • Scheutz, M., Madey, G., and Boyd, S. (2005) tMANS - the Multi-Scale Agent-Based Network System for the study of interactions between neuronal mechanisms and population dynamics. Proceedings of Agent-Direct Simulation, Society for Modeling and Simulation International, San Diego, CA.
  • Moore, F.L., Boyd, S.K., and Kelley, DB. (2005) Historical perspective: Hormonal regulation of behaviors in amphibians. Hormones and Behavior 48:373-383.
  • Hollis, D.M. and Boyd, S.K. (2005) Distribution of GABA-like immunoreactive cell bodies in the brains of two amphibians, Rana catesbeiana and Xenopus laevis. Brain, Behavior, and Evolution, 65:127-142.
  • Hollis, D.M., Goetz, F., Roberts, S., and Boyd, S.K. (2004) Acute neurosteroid modulation and subunit isolation of the γ-aminobutyric acidA receptor in the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana. Journal of Molecular Endocrinology, 32:921-934.
  • Hollis, D.M. and Boyd, S.K. (2003) Characterization of the GABAA receptor in the brain of the adult male bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana. Brain Research 992:69-75.
  • Ebersole, T.J., Conlon, J.M., Goetz, F.W., and Boyd, S.K. (2001) Characterization and distribution of neuropeptide Y in the brain of a caecilian amphibian. Peptides 22:325-334.
  • Ebersole, T.J. and Boyd, S.K. (2000) Immunocytochemical localization of gonadotropin-releasing hormones in the brain of a viviparous caecilian amphibian, Typhlonectes natans (Amphibia: Gymnophiona). Brain, Behavior and Evolution 55:1-13. (Cover photo).
  • Tito, M.B., Hoover, M.A., Mingo, A.M., and Boyd, S.K. (1999) Vasotocin maintains multiple call types in the gray treefrog, Hyla versicolor. Hormones and Behavior 36:166-175.
  • Emerson, S.B. and Boyd, S.K. (1999) Mating vocalizations of female frogs: control and evolution mechanisms. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 53:187-197.