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The role of neuronal compartmentalization in generating specific behavioural responses in C. elegans


A fundamental question in neurobiology is how specific behaviours are controlled at the level of molecules, cells, and neuralcircuits. In this proposal I aim to investigate how different synapses within the same neuron are specialized, how thisspecializati on contributes to, information processing in the neuron and, ultimately, to specific behavioural responses. Toinvestigate this problem I will study feeding behaviour in the nematode C. elegans. Different wild strains of C. elegans exhibitdifferent feeding strategies, which can be causally linked to the specific action of receptors, sensory neurons, andinterneurons. I will combine genome-wide RNAi screening with forward genetic approaches to identify new molecules thatcontrol how C. elegans respond to food. The function of these genes will be tested using 1. Behavioural assays, 2. Newlydeveloped labels for different post-synaptic elements in the same interneuron, and 3. Genetically encoded indicators of neuralactivity. Ultimately, I hope to understand how inf ormation received at distinct post-synaptic elements from different pre-synaptic partners sculpts neuronal output and behavioural response.

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