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Context-dependent flexibility in innate behaviours and their underlying neural circuitry

Descripción del proyecto

Mecanismos subyacentes de la flexibilidad en las reacciones innatas

La supervivencia animal exige que las reacciones innatas sean rápidas, fiables y flexibles. El equipo del proyecto FLEXIN, financiado por el Consejo Europeo de Investigación, investigará el modo en que los circuitos cerebrales facilitan las reacciones específicas al contexto ante señales críticas para la supervivencia, como la amenaza y la presa. Mediante una combinación de herramientas virales, técnicas de registro neuronal de alto rendimiento y cuantificación del comportamiento en roedores, el estudio permitirá descubrir los circuitos neuronales que controlan los cambios en la adaptación de los animales a distintas situaciones. En el proyecto se analizará cómo los diversos contextos afectan a estos circuitos y comportamientos bien definidos, lo cual revelará principios de flexibilidad en función del contexto, conservación de los circuitos neuronales y adaptación de las regiones cerebrales a los cambios ambientales.

Objetivo

Avoiding danger and approaching food are essential and highly conserved behaviours. To ensure an animal’s survival, such innate reactions need to be fast and reliable. However, in an everchanging environment, not only reliability, but also flexibility is required. How brain circuits are organized to allow for context-specific, flexible behaviour remains an open fundamental question. Here I propose experiments that dissect how brain circuits mediate context-specific reactions to survival-critical cues including threat and prey. A unique combination of viral tools, high-throughput neural recording techniques, and quantification of behaviour in different rodent species, will reveal how neural circuits can encode changes in the animal’s context and adjust to different situations. The strengths of this proposal are twofold: First, this research will make use of the reliable framework of innate behaviours that do not require learning, and which can be elicited with simple visual stimuli to assess flexibility. Second, I will compare the impact of three different contexts on these behaviours and their underlying circuits: How does ambient light affect innate reactions? How do animals respond to threat at different times of the day? How have species that evolved in different ecological niches developed distinct avoidance behaviours? Comparing the impact of these internal and external, transient and permanent contexts on the same, well-defined circuits and behaviours will, first, reveal general principles of context-specific flexibility; second, dissect whether neural circuits that underly similar behaviours are conserved across species; and third, determine which parts of the brain are most likely to adjust when changes in the environment requires behavioural flexibility. Together, this work will reveal how flexible behaviours are created in the brain and may provide a framework to assess cause and treatment of lack of such flexibility, e.g. in anxiety disorders.

Régimen de financiación

HORIZON-ERC - HORIZON ERC Grants

Institución de acogida

SCUOLA INTERNAZIONALE SUPERIORE DI STUDI AVANZATI DI TRIESTE
Aportación neta de la UEn
€ 1 544 651,00
Dirección
VIA BONOMEA 265
34136 Trieste
Italia

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Región
Nord-Est Friuli-Venezia Giulia Trieste
Tipo de actividad
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Enlaces
Coste total
€ 1 544 651,00

Beneficiarios (1)