PhD studentship: identifying the neural circuit underlying chemotaxis in Drosophila

Closing Date
31 Dec 2019

Chemotaxis is the ability of most animals to navigate the direction and magnitude of an odour plume and is vital for survival. To be able to navigate an odour plume the brain has to be able to decode gradients of sensory information and this is a fundamental principle for decoding most sensory stimuli like vision and hearing. It is not clear how the brain accomplishes this task.

We are using the Drosophila larvae and olfaction as a paradigm to uncover the neural mechanisms underlying decoding of graded stimuli. How larvae detect odours and begin to process odour information is well described.

However, it is not clear how olfactory information is routed to the motor neurons from higher processing centres because the neural components have yet to be identified. We have carried out a screen for potential candidate neurons that connect higher brain centres with motor neurons in the larval brain.

The aim of this project is to identify which of these candidate lines are involved in chemotaxis using behavioural assays and immunohistochemistry. Once candidate neurons have been identified we can address how the neurons respond to olfactory input in order for us to understand how graded olfactory input is decoded in the brain.

This part of the project will use functional imaging with genetically encoded calcium indicators and optogenetic tools. This project involves most of the techniques used in systems neuroscience and will equip the student with a good foundation for a career in systems neuroscience.

Funding Notes

This is a self funded PhD with a flexible start date. Applicants who wish to begin their PhD in Februrary should apply within the next 2 months.

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