|Mission: Our mission is (1)
to understand some of the computations that occur in the early
stages of sensory processing by neural circuits, and (2) to
describe the cellular, synaptic, and circuit mechanisms
underlying these computations.
Approach: We use the brain of the fruit
fly Drosophila to
investigate these questions. This tiny brain
contains only ~100,000 neurons, and many individual neurons are
uniquely identifiable across flies. Moreover, the powerful
genetic toolbox of this organism provides a unique combination
of tools for labeling and manipulating neural circuits. Because some of the fundamental
problems of early sensory processing are likely to be common to
all species, we believe that some of the lessons we learn from
this simple brain will provide clues to understanding similar problems in more
We are studying several different regions of the
including the olfactory, auditory, thermosensory, and
mechanosensory systems. Our work focuses on a few key questions:
primarily use electrophysiological techniques (patch clamp recording
and extracellular recording) to record the activity of
individual identified neurons
in vivo. To
complement these electrophysiological techniques, we
use a variety of genetic tools:
- How are sensory stimuli
represented in these brain regions?
- How are these
representations reformatted (or "transformed") as they move
from one brain region to another?
- What specific circuit,
cellular, and synaptic mechanisms shape these
- How do the properties of
early sensory representations correlate with behavioral
responses to these sensory stimuli?
Finally, we are devising
sensitive behavioral paradigms for assessing sensory perception
in individual flies. By comparing the impact of specific genetic
manipulations on both neural activity and behavior, we aim to
understand how patterns of electrical activity in the brain
correspond to sensory perceptions.
- We can
specifically label small subsets of neurons in the fly
brain with fluorescent markers. This allows us to target our
recording electrodes specifically to these neurons.
- We image patterns of
activity in identified neurons
by expressing genetically-encoded indicators in these
trace neural circuits by
fluorophores and photoactivating in specific regions of
can perturb patterns of electrical activity in neural
circuits by manipulating expression of specific ion
channels, receptors, or neurosecretory molecules.
To learn about our recent discoveries, we invite you to browse
from the lab.