Circuit Mechanisms for Flexible Sensory Processing
In a complex and dynamic environment, animals must constantly vary their behavior to accommodate changing circumstances and contingencies. Yet, how associative brain centers flexibly couple the same sensory input to alternative behavioral pathways remains unclear. My lab takes advantage of the relative simplicity of the Drosophila olfactory system to gain insight into the synaptic and circuit mechanisms through which context and experience can modify odor processing. In Drosophila, the mushroom body is a higher brain center that integrates olfactory and neuromodulatory reinforcement signals to generate learned and adaptive behaviors. I will describe recent work in which we used functional synaptic imaging and electrophysiology to show that the mushroom body functions like a switchboard in which dopaminergic neuromodulation can reroute the same odor signals to different behavioral circuits depending on the state and experience of the fly. Our data suggest a circuit mechanism for behavioral flexibility in which neuromodulatory networks act with exquisite spatial precision to transform a single sensory input into different patterns of output activity.
Vanessa Ruta, Ph.D.
Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Assistant Professor
Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior
Host: John Tuthill