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Functional and structural analysis of higher olfactory circuits in Drosophila


My long-term scientific goal is to understand the links between genes and behaviour. For this purpose I use Drosophila as a model system because it is genetically tractable while having a complex behavioural repertoire. My past research at Stanford University focused on the development of highly specific wiring in olfactory circuits. Research supported by the IRG will develop this theme by investigating the functional properties of these circuits. I will develop very high-resolution wiring maps of genetically identified neurons in higher olfactory centres.

These will initially be based on high-resolution con-focal microscopy combined with novel image registration techniques. In parallel I will also employ a novel serial block-face scanning electron microscopy technique (SBFSEM), which allows large brain volumes to be reconstructed at up to 10nm resolution. I will then apply state of the art whole cell patch clamp techniques to record the activity of these neurons in intact animals responding to odours. By recording from neurons at successive levels of olfactory processing I hope to understand the integration and transformation of raw sensory information that underlies olfactory perception. Recording from pairs of identified neurons that I predict to be connected by neuro anatomical criteria will be a key part of understanding this information processing.

These circuit studies are an essential prerequisite to my long-term goal of understanding the relationship between genes and neural circuits and the relationship between neural circuits and behaviour. Ultimately I hope to gain new insights into the functional properties of the nervous system and how they may be encoded within the genome.

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The Old Schools, Trinity Lane