“What the Fly Can Tell Us about the Neural Basis of Navigation”
Vivek Jayaraman, Ph.D.
Senior Group Leader & Head of Mechanistic Cognitive Neuroscience
Janelia Research Campus
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Our goal is to establish causal links between the dynamics of neural circuits and the behavioral decisions that an animal continuously makes as it navigates a multi-sensory world. Our focus is on computations in the central complex, a middle-of-the-insect-brain region that is thought to be important for sensory-guided decision making, navigation and motor control.
We believe that our choice of studying the function of a higher brain region involved in sensorimotor processing requires us to study neural activity in a behaving organism. Furthermore, validating any potential answers requires manipulating neural circuits in precise and well-controlled ways. This leads us to our experimental system, the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which has long been the organism of choice for behavioral genetics and comes with tools to fluorescently label, manipulate the activity of, and optically record from genetically targeted neurons.