Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Co-Director, Yale Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program
A major challenge of developmental neuroscience is to understand how synapses arise. The Drosophila neuromuscular junction is a particularly good system for analyzing this problem. Both the neurons and muscle cells of the fly embryo are singly identifiable, and they can be directly manipulated using cellular and molecular methods. Furthermore, the connections show a high degree of synaptic sophistication, so that complex problems involving experience-dependent plasticity can be studied. The molecular mechanisms that govern these developmental events are fascinating, as they resemble structural and functional changes associated with synaptogenesis. These studies include intracellular physiology, micromanipulation, embryo and tissue culture, immunocytochemistry, molecular genetics, and digital optical microscopy.