Behavioral Neurogenetics

We combine neuroscience and physiology to understand how brains and bodies communicate on the cellular and molecular level to enable organisms to thrive in their respective environments.

Perceptions and decisions depend on sensory impressions, but also on past experiences and the present internal state of an animal. Behavior is therefore very adaptive and flexible. For instance, a hungry animal perceives the smell and taste of food as much more positive than a fed animal. At the same time, it is willing to take a high risk and invest time and energy in order to find food. Which signals and neural networks allow the communication between brain and body? And how do they modulate behavior and decision-making in the best interest of the organism?

We aim at answering these questions at three levels: (1) behavior, (2) neural networks, and (3) genes. To this end, we are using genetic models such as Drosophila melanogaster in combination with modern techniques including high resolution behavioral analysis, optogenetics, and in vivo multiphoton microscopy. In particular, we focus on how the brain translates chemosensory information, i.e. odors and tastes, into state- and experience-dependent perceptions and ultimately into behavior.