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Department of Neurobiology
Wilson Lab

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Mission: Our mission is to understand key computations that occur in sensory processing and sensorimotor integration, and to describe the mechanisms underlying these computations.

Approach: We use the brain of the fruit fly Drosophila to investigate these questions. This brain contains only ~100,000 neurons. The genetic tooflylbox of this organism allows us to rapidly generate new reagents to label or manipulate specific classes of neurons in the brain. It turns out that many individual neurons are uniquely identifiable across flies and have stereotyped connectivity and activity patterns. This feature of the fly brain allows us to build up a cumulative picture of each neuron or neuron class, and to correlate connectivity with activity.

neuronBecause many neural systems in various species face the same constraints, we believe that some of the lessons we learn from this simple brain will provide clues to understanding similar problems in more complex brains.

We are currently studying several
different regions of the Drosophila brain, including the olfactory, auditory, thermosensory, and mechanosensory systems.

Key questions:
  • What neural computations occur at successive layers of a neural circuit?
  • What mechanisms implement these neural computations?
  • How do these particular neural computations (and their implementation) help us understand the behaviors that engage these circuits, as well as the constraints that shaped these circuits and behaviors?
Techniques: Each study typically combines several of the following approaches.
  • in vivo electrophysiological recording of neural activity
  • in vivo optical imaging of neural activity
  • genetic manipulation of specific cell classes
  • mathematical modeling
  • behavioral observation
To learn about our recent discoveries, we invite you to browse some publications from the lab.

Wilson lab home