John Tuthill Ph.D.
Janelia/University of Chicago, 2012
Synaptic and Circuit Mechanisms of Behavior
We study neural mechanisms of sensorimotor processing in the compact nervous system of the nimble fruit fly, Drosophila. As a fly cruises through the world, her brain gathers sensory information from the external environment, which is transformed in the central nervous system, and subsequently used to guide movement and behavior. We are interested in how the nervous system implements each stage of this process— sensory coding, central integration, and motor control.
The critical advantage of the fly is the existence of an advanced genetic toolkit that allows us to target and manipulate specific classes of neurons. We combine genetic tools with electrophysiology and 2-photon imaging to record neural activity in behaving flies.
We are currently investigating the sensory circuits that process somatosensory information from leg mechanoreceptors, and the motor circuits that control leg muscles. By studying how somatosensory feedback signals fine-tune locomotor rhythms, such as running and flight, we hope to gain insight into the fundamental neural computations that underlie sensorimotor control and behavior.