The ability of animals to navigate complex environments depends critically on the integration of proprioceptive information with motor commands. For example, animals (including humans) who lack proprioceptive feedback can generate coarse limb movements, but are unable to execute fine motor tasks. To understand the neural computations that occur at the interface of proprioception and movement, we study the circuits of the Drosophila ventral nerve cord (VNC), which functions like the vertebrate spinal cord to control the sensation and movement of the limbs. We use electrophysiology and optical imaging to measure neural activity, and genetic tools to label and manipulate specific circuit elements in behaving flies. We combine these data with computational modeling of neural circuits and behavior to understand how the fly nervous system senses and controls the body. Although there are obvious differences between flies and humans, many of the basic building blocks of the nervous system are remarkably similar. These similarities suggest that the principles discovered in circuits of the fruit fly will be highly relevant to sensorimotor processing in other animals.
host: Beth Buffalo
The department of Physiology & Biophysics acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations. It is in this land where we work, teach, and learn.