Bionet Research Overview
Our research interests focus on the molecular architecture and functional logic of the brain of model organisms. We investigate in particular the Drosophila brain because the fruit fly (i) exhibits complex olfactory- and vision-driven behaviors, (ii) has a nervous system that is numerically five orders of magnitude smaller than that of vertebrates (the fly brain contains approximately 100,000 neurons) and, (iii) makes it possible to use an extensive genetic toolbox to visualize and alter any of its brain circuits. One additional factor that makes Drosophila so attractive for research is (iv) the uniquely comprehensive description of its sensory periphery, including a complete molecular characterization of olfactory sensory neurons and photoreceptors, and their projections into higher brain centers.
Understanding brain function requires the integration of genetic, anatomical and neurophysiology data as well as recording tools, brain circuit models and computational algorithms created by researchers from a wide range of disciplines. To gain insights into the functional logic of the fruit fly brain in health and disease, and to uncover the building blocks underlying cognition, we helped create a transformative collaborative ecosystem called the Fruit Fly Brain Observatory (FFBO). The FFBO supports explorations in computing with fruit fly brain circuits. In parallel with computational studies, we theoretically investigate machines modeling information representation and neuroinformation processing in the analog (graded potentials) and in the spike domain. A brief overview of representative projects with links to further reading is given below.
Molecular Transduction and Combinatorial Encoding in the Early Olfactory System, Molecular Transduction and SpatioTemporal Encoding in the Early Visual System, The Functional Role of the Central Complex, Building the Functional Map of the Fruit Fly Brain.