Faculty Profile

Dr. Scott W. Emmons, Ph.D.

Scott W. Emmons, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Genetics

Professor, Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience

Siegfried Ullmann Chair in Molecular Genetics

Areas of Research: C. elegans connectomics; nervous system development; specification of synaptic connectivity, neural cell adhesion proteins; sexual dimorphism of the nervous system.

Professional Interests


Development and Function of Neural Circuits, Connectomics 


How complex neural circuits form and how they function are major unsolved problems in neurobiology.  We use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study these questions at the cellular and genetic levels.  Connectivity in the C. elegans nervous system is determined by serial section electron microscopy.  C. elegans is the only animal species for which the complete nervous system wiring diagram is known.  It is now available for both male and hermaphrodite adults from work in this laboratory (Cook et al., 2019).  This critical information provides an unparrelled foundation for C. elegans neuroscience research. 

The C. elegans nervous system is a complex neural network.  To understand how the patterns of connectivity are genetically specified, we make use of transgenes that express fluorescent proteins targeted to specific synapses.  We use these synapse-specific labels to identify mutants and genes that affect formation of particular synaptic contacts.  We have determined the expression patterns of the complete set of neural cell adhesion genes in the neural network that governs the mating behavior of the adult male.  By correlating the expression of these molecular cell labels with connectivity, we hope to decipher the molecular code for connectivity.

            Visit our websites:  http://worms.aecom.yu.eduhttp://wormwiring.org

Selected Publications

Jarrell. T. A., Wang, Y., Bloniarz, A. E., Brittin, C. A., Xu, M., Thomson, J. N., Albertson, D. G., Hall, D. H., and Emmons, S. W.  (2012)  The connectome of a decision-making neural network.  Science 337, 437-444.  This paper was awarded the 2012-2013 AAAS NEWCOMB CLEVELAND PRIZE for the Most Outstanding Research Article Published in Science. 

Emmons, S. W. (2012) The mood of a worm (Perspective). Science 338, 475-476.

Barrios, A., Ghosh, R., Fang, C., Emmons, S.W., and Barr, M.M. (2012)  PDF-1 neuropeptide signaling modulates a neural circuit for mate-searching behavior in C. elegans. Nature Neuroscience 15, 1675-1682.

Xu, M., Jarrell, T.A., Wang, Y., Cook, S.J., Hall, D.H., and Emmons, S.W. (2013) Computer assisted assembly of connectomes from electron micrographs: application to Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54050. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054050

Emmons, S.W. (2014). The development of sexual dimorphism: studies of the Caenorhabditis elegans male. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology 3, 239-262.

Desbois, M., Cook, S.J., Emmons, S.W., and Bülow, H.E. (2015). Directional Trans-Synaptic Labeling of Specific Neuronal Connections in Live Animals. Genetics, genetics. 115.177006.

Emmons, S.W. (2015). The beginning of connectomics: a commentary on White et al. (1986) ‘The structure of the nervous system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans’. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 370.

Sammut, M., Cook, S.J., Nguyen, K.C.Q., Felton, T., Hall, D.H., Emmons, S.W., Poole, R.J., and Barrios, A. (2015). Glia-derived neurons are required for sex-specific learning in C. elegans. Nature 526, 385-390.

Emmons, S.W. (2016). Chapter Seventeen - Connectomics, the Final Frontier. In Current Topics in Developmental Biology, M.W. Paul, ed. (Academic Press), pp. 315-330.

Kim, B., Suo, B. & Emmons, Scott W. (2016)  Gene Function Prediction Based on Developmental Transcriptomes of the Two Sexes in C. elegans. Cell Reports 17, 917-928, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2016.09.051.

Kim, B. & Emmons, S. W. (2017) Multiple conserved cell adhesion protein interactions mediate neural wiring of a sensory circuit in C. elegans. eLife 6, e29257, doi:10.7554/eLife.29257.

Emmons, S. W. Neuronal plasticity in nematode worms (News and Views). (2018) Nature 553, 159-160.

Lázaro-Peña, M. I., Díaz-Balzac, C. A., Bülow, H. E. & Emmons, S. W. (2018) Synaptogenesis Is Modulated by Heparan Sulfate in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics 209, 195-208. HIGHLIGHTED ARTICLE

Emmons, S. W. Neural Circuits of Sexual Behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans. Annual review of neuroscience 41, 349-369 (2018).

Cook, S. J., Jarrell, T. A., Brittin, C., Wang, Y., Bloniarz, A. E., Yakovlev, M. A., Nguyen, K. C. Q., Tang, L. T.-H., Bayer, E. A., Duerr, J. S., Buelow, H., Hobert, O., Hall, D. H., and Emmons, S. W. (2019) Whole-animal connectomes of both Caenorhabditis elegans sexes.  Nature 571, 63-71.


More Information About Dr. Scott Emmons

Emmons Lab Home Page


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Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Ullmann Building, Room 703
Bronx, NY 10461

Tel: 718.430.3130
Fax: 718.430.8778

Research Information

In the News

Worm Wiring Diagram May Help Us Understand Our Own Nervous System

Scott Emmons, Ph.D., describes how his publication of the first complete map of an animal’s nervous system may have implications for our understanding of human behavior. Dr. Emmons is professor of genetics and in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, and is the Siegfried Ullmann Chair in Molecular Genetics at Einstein.

More Coverage on this Story
The New York Times
The Washington Post
New Scientist (subscription required)

The Telegraph (UK) quotes Dr. Scott Emmons about his new Nature study that found male nematode worms have neurons that allow them to prioritize mating.

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