The what and where of operant self-learning

In the last couple of years, we have shown that world-learning (the process assigning value to sensory stimuli) and self-learning (the process assigning value to a specific action or movement) are two separate components of operant learning. The two elements depend on different molecular substrates and they interact: world-learning inhibits the formation of self-learning.
This project aims to decipher the molecular basis of self-learning using the genetic tools available in Drosophila in combination with behavioral experiments. We have recently discovered that the Drosophila FoxP gene and the atypical protein kinase C (aPKC) are necessary for operant self-learning and that both genes are expressed in a small set of wing motor neurons in the ventral nerve cord. In fact, upregulating aPKC leads to improved self-learning, suggesting it may be a key component of the plasticity mechanism underlying this form of motor learning. Research in this project now focuses on identifying the precise neurons of FoxP+aPKC overlap and further components of the biochemical plasticity pathway, in addition to FoxP and aPKC.

News concerning this project

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