Unraveling the Neural Computations Directing Sensory Navigation

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First Name: 

Matthieu

Last Name: 

Louis

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Project Description

Animals navigate sensory gradients to find food and to avoid danger. Navigation in response to chemicals is called chemotaxis. This process involves sensory coding (internal representation of the stimulus) and decision making (directional control of locomotion). We tackle both problems in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster larva. Our research aims to explain how odor tracking comes about in terms of computations achieved by neural circuits. We combine a variety of experimental and computational techniques to define how naturalistic olfactory stimuli are represented and processed by the larval olfactory system. In addition, we seek to identify and functionally characterize the neural pathways involved in the combination of olfactory information (food odors, pheromones) with signals from other sensory modalities (temperature, light) to make coherent navigational decisions.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduate students joining our lab will be exposed to the tools and approaches of systems neuroscience. They will be mentored by a graduate student or a post-doctoral fellow. Undergraduates with an experimental background will enjoy discovering techniques of data analysis and computational modeling. In addition, they will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a variety of lab techniques including fly molecular genetics, behavioral quantification and optogenetics (control of neural activity with light). Undergraduate students with a more theoretical background (physicists and engineers) will be introduced to experimental neuroscience; they will learn how to design and perform behavioral experiments.

Requirements/Application Instructions

Undergraduate students joining our lab will be exposed to the tools and approaches of systems neuroscience. They will be mentored by a graduate student or a post-doctoral fellow. Undergraduates with an experimental background will enjoy discovering techniques of data analysis and computational modeling. In addition, they will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a variety of lab techniques including fly molecular genetics, behavioral quantification and optogenetics (control of neural activity with light). Undergraduate students with a more theoretical background (physicists and engineers) will be introduced to experimental neuroscience; they will learn how to design and perform behavioral experiments.

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