From goal-directed behavior to habits…

With this project we aim to identify the neurobiological mechanisms which prevent the formation of premature habits and, by that, ensure appropriate behavior in terms of cost/efficiency trade off. So far, the role of Drosophila MBs is only described in the context of Pavlovian classical conditioning, whereas operant self-learning was localized to the VNC. Having the interaction of both learning systems, we address the components of the MB circuitry to investigate the neural substrate of its inhibiting effect on the self-learning.

Do the Drosophila mushroom bodies have an impact on naive preference for and perception of the valence of certain gustatory stimuli?

This project aims to investigate possible effects of the Drosophila mushroom body circuitry on naïve gustatory behavior. This involves genetic manipulations of the MB Kenyon cells and dopaminergic neurons known to convey gustatory stimuli to the MBs. We study the interaction of single components of the neural network and the impact of these components on potential change in the naïve preference/perception for and the negative valence of salt, and/or motivational drive of the larvae.

Dopamine neuronal populations involved in reward and punishment

The first stage consisted in the establishment of an optogenetic model of Drosophila. For this we wanted to gain insights into the method by performing different experiments in order to optimize several parameters (nutritive ATR concentration, light types, light intensity and additional material). Once this was achieved, we wanted to characterize the dopaminergic neurons coding […]

The what and where of operant self-learning

Protein Kinase C (PKC) has recently been shown to be specifically involved in operant self-learning, but not in other forms of operant learning or in classical learning. This project aims to identify the neural circuits in the fly brain where PKC is required during operant self-learning.

Electroretinogram measurements of a mutant fly line (Vam) that presents neurodegeneration in the retina

It has been shown that light stimulation generates a photoelectric signal in the retina of the wild type Drosophila melanogaster. Such process causes a potential with its corresponding electrical transients (Belusic, 2011).  Contrarily Vam mutants have demonstrated degeneration of the L1 and L2 neurons resulting in loss of these electrical transients (Coombe,1986). Hence the difference […]

dFoxP as a key component of the operant self-learning mechanism

The Forkhead Box P2 (FoxP2) is a gene known for its importance in the developing of speech and language in humans, and, more widely, for modulating the neural circuits involved in vocal learning in vertebrates. By studying the Drosophila FoxP orthologue, dFoxP, it has been possible to extend this important role to another form of […]

Temperature impact on light preference

Light and temperature have a broad impact on physiology and behavior. However, how these sensory modalities interact, e.g., how changes in one of them affect the preference for the other one, remains unknown. The idea of the current project is to study how temperature could alter phototactic preference, and uncover the neuronal circuit that process […]

Hide if you can’t fly? Behavioral flexibility in Drosophila

Flies that are able to fly respond very differently to visual stimuli than flies which have been experimentally manipulated to not be able to fly: what are the neural mechanisms underlying this flexibility?

Does starvation-resistance in flies without octopamine explain differences in sucrose response?

Biogenic amines are involved in almost all biological processes. They modulate perception, motivation and locomotion. The fruit fly Drosophila is an ideal model system to tease apart the neuronal populations mediating the aminergic effects. Using Drosophila neurogenetics, we are beginning to characterize the octopaminergic subpopulations involved in walking speed and in the motivation of sugar responsiveness.

The neurobiology of spontaneous flight behavior in Drosophila

Testing fruit flies for their spontaneous turning behavior in tethered flight.

Using R to analyze data from Buridan’s paradigm

In Buridan’s paradigm, wingless flies walk on a platform surrounded by water. We developed fly tracking software, data evaluation software and made the whole package available under an open source license.