Comparative Neurobiology and Behaviour
My research uses invertebrates to study the neural bases of behaviour, together with factors which influence behavioural decision-making.
Olfactory coding in a 'simple' system
Understanding olfactory coding and perception is a major challenge for sensory neuroscience. We are using a 'simple' and malleable organism, the Drosophila larva, to study the principles underlying peripheral olfactory coding and how sensory signals are integrated within a neural network to produce a behavioural response. The larva's peripheral olfactory network comprises only 21 receptor neurons in each 'antenna' (compared to >1200 in the adult), but can detect more than 60 odours and discriminate most of these. We have developed a method for electrophysiological recording from the larval 'nose' - the dorsal organ - in vivo. In addition we can generate larval lines which express a single (or two) specific olfactory receptor genes, and hence possess a single (or two) functional receptor neuron(s). We are exploiting these lines, in comparison with wild-type larvae, in behavioural, electrophysiological and computational studies, in order to 'crack' the olfactory across-fibre code.