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Department of Zoology

 

Animal behaviour is shaped by phylogenetic and ontogenetic history. Thanks to electron microscopy, we recently took a close look at the neuronal circuit in larva of Drosophila melanogaster, which reveals the exquisite organisation of the brain parts responsible for associative memory.  

The neurons of the mushroom body are responsible for memory traces formation; but other neighbour neurons are involved in shaping the signal brought to and/or sent by this core centre. Those neurons are innervating many different brain regions, suggesting their implication in integrating experience-gained information to other signals linked to various needs the animal can have.

For my project I challenge Drosophila larvae with learning tasks and test elements of the circuit responsible for experience-dependent behaviour. I am using neurogenetic tools to manipulate neurons, which allows me to test their role in generating or expressing a memory. I am also imaging intracellular calcium signals to visualize changes in neuronal responses before and after learning tasks.

I have particularly tackled two main questions:

  1. How do modulatory neurons inform mushroom body neurons about the relevance of a stimulus, and how does the signal evolve over time and experience?
  2. How do neuronal populations integrate experience and coordinate behavioural switches?

Answering those questions might shed light on how learning ability is implemented in the brain of Drosophila larva, allowing this animal to face fast-changing conditions.

Research Associate

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