We are interested in how nervous systems generate complex behaviors and give rise to sensory perceptions. We study these questions in the fly, Drosophila, selected for its rich history as a model system in neurobiology, and its powerful genetic toolbox. Our principal approach is to use whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology to record from identified neurons in neural circuits involved in courtship behavior or aggression. We can then alter the properties of these cells using the GAL4/UAS system of the fly to determine how the neurons function in the circuit. We are also developing mathematical models and highly quantitative behavioral assays to determine how such circuits ultimately shape behavioral output. These methods allow us to ask questions central to neurobiology, such as:
- How do neurons encode stimuli and social cues that pertain to courtship behavior and aggression?
- How do circuits integrate multi-modal sensory stimuli to choose an appropriate behavioral output?
- Do individual neurons tend to be involved in the generation of multiple behaviors? Are they multifunctional?
- How do sensory systems and neuromodulatory circuits interact to govern behavioral output?
- How do brief and transient sensory stimuli lead to long-lasting behavioral output?
By addressing these questions in the simple nervous system of the fly, we hope to provide insight into how our own brains function.
Postdoc, Harvard Medical School, 2012
Ph.D., Neuroscience, UC San Diego, 2008
B.S., Emory University, 2002