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

Descrizione del progetto

Meccanismi alla base della flessibilità delle reazioni innate

La sopravvivenza degli animali richiede reazioni innate rapide, affidabili e flessibili. Il progetto FLEXIN, finanziato dal CER, studierà il modo in cui i circuiti cerebrali agevolano le reazioni dettate dal contesto a segnali cruciali per la sopravvivenza, come la minaccia e l’esistenza di una preda. Utilizzando una combinazione di strumenti virali, tecniche di registrazione neurale ad alto rendimento e quantificazione del comportamento nei roditori, lo studio scoprirà i circuiti neurali che controllano i cambiamenti nell’adattamento degli animali alle diverse situazioni. Il progetto analizzerà come contesti variegati influenzino questi circuiti e comportamenti ben definiti, rivelando i principi della flessibilità dettata dal contesto, della conservazione dei circuiti neurali e dell’adattamento delle regioni cerebrali ai cambiamenti ambientali.

Obiettivo

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.

Meccanismo di finanziamento

HORIZON-ERC - HORIZON ERC Grants

Istituzione ospitante

SCUOLA INTERNAZIONALE SUPERIORE DI STUDI AVANZATI DI TRIESTE
Contribution nette de l'UE
€ 1 544 651,00
Indirizzo
VIA BONOMEA 265
34136 Trieste
Italia

Mostra sulla mappa

Regione
Nord-Est Friuli-Venezia Giulia Trieste
Tipo di attività
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Collegamenti
Costo totale
€ 1 544 651,00

Beneficiari (1)