The octopus is rich in evolutionary novelties, from an immense nervous system to prehensile arms to a tremendously sophisticated adaptive coloration system. It is the octopus's brain and behavior that has attracted the greatest study, but much of this research was done in the 20th century and limited by the techniques of the time. The major focus of the Ragsdale laboratory is to bring the modern advances in neuroscience, molecular cell biology and genetic manipulation to the study of cephalopod biology. Our first major step was into genomics and transcriptomics. In 2015, the Ragsdale laboratory, in collaboration with the Rokhsar group at UC-Berkeley, reported the genome of the Ragsdale lab's chosen model organism, Octopus bimaculoides. Current research includes comparative cephalopod genomics, octopus arm regeneration, the organization of the cephalopod nervous system, and the neuroendocrinology of octopus sex and death.
The other focus of the Ragsdale laboratory is the evolutionary developmental neurobiology of the neocortex.