Visualizing simple decision making in the fruit fly brain

Project: Research project

Project Details


My ultimate goal is to elucidate how the interplay between different sensory inputs and motivational states occurs in the brain at the level of individual cells and circuits, and how this leads to decision making. As a Pew scholar, I will use the fruit fly Drosophila to study how conflicting sensory stimuli are integrated during natural behavior to produce attractive/aversive choices, and how the animal's motivational state may affect these responses. Our recent work is starting to reveal how a simple sensory map for hot and cold temperature is transformed by dedicated brain circuits into innate aversion to hot and cold thermal ranges. We will now study the mechanisms by which flies are able to suppress innate avoidance of unfavorable temperatures when confronted with the possibility of a reward (attractive olfactory cues), and how hunger may bias this response. Using a combination of new behavioral assays and state-of-the-art neurogenetic and imaging technologies, we will identify the points of cross-talk between the two sensory systems and reveal how the behavioral outcome can be modified depending on context as well as the internal state of the animal. My expectation is that this work will uncover general principles used in decision making and motivated behavior by all animals, and help us better understand how our own, more complex brain processes decisions.
Effective start/end date8/1/167/31/21


  • Pew Charitable Trusts (00029642)


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