Our laboratory applies cellular, molecular, genetic, and physiological approaches to the question of how neuronal circuits perform computations underlying behavioral decision making. We take an interdisciplinary approach to these questions. We manipulate the physiological properties of neurons in directed ways by genetically targeted cell-specific expression of engineered proteins in transgenic animals. These engineered proteins include ion channel subunits, optogenetic effectors, intracellular ionic buffers, signaling enzymes, membrane-tethered neuropeptides, and membrane-tethered peptide neurotoxins that target specific ion channel subtypes. Subsequently, we measure the effects of these manipulations on the whole-animal behavior of intact Drosophila flies or C. elegans worms, as well as on various physiological parameters of the manipulated neurons using cell biological, neurophysiological, functional imaging, and genomics/systems biology techniques. As model systems for addressing these issues, we study the neural circuits that control sexual courtship behavior, sleep, energy metabolism, and decision making in Drosophila melanogaster flies and Caenorhabditis elegans worms.
Behavior, Animal; Decision Making; Genetics; Ion Channels; Neuropeptides; Neurophysiology; Neurotoxins; Physiology