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Neurobiology, Biomechanics and Behaviour

Neurobiology, Biomechanics and Behaviour

We seek to explain animal behaviour from the processing of sensory information to the generation of motor outputs. By selecting the appropriate animals and behaviour we aim to illuminate general principles of the neural and functional organisation underlying behaviour.

In our research we cover a wide range of related topics. We investigate how energy efficiency influences the function and design of neural circuits (Simon Laughlin). We study the neural mechanisms underlying acoustic communication - signal generation, hearing and motor response - in insects (Berthold Hedwig). In birds we analyse the neural mechanisms of learning and memory underlying aspects of behavioural imprinting (Brian McCabe).

We study the development of neural networks in the motor system of the fruit fly Drosophila and investigate the mechanisms that regulate the formation of synaptic terminals during development (Matthias Landgraf).  In addition, we are working towards building a map of the adult fly brain, describing every neuron and its connections, in order to understand the circuit basis of brain function and behaviour (Drosophila Connectomics).

We analyse the interactions between motor commands from the central nervous system and the biomechanical properties of the body that produce rapid adaptive locomotion exemplified by jumping insects (Malcolm Burrows). We study the evolutionary and ecological implications of biomechanical adaptations and analyze how insect-plant interactions are governed by mechanisms of surface adhesion (Walter Federle).

Our research is key to understanding how animals interact with each other and with their environment. Moreover, because selection acts on neural mechanisms, our research provides insight how animals evolved. Placing our studies in a behavioural and evolutionary framework is facilitated by easy interactions with our close colleagues who are cell, developmental and evolutionary biologists and behavioural ecologists.


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