Georgia Tech Neuro Seminar Series

"Sensory Processing and Integration in the Drosophila Taste System

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Anita Devineni, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology 
Emory University

How does the brain process sensory cues to generate adaptive behaviors that are innate, yet flexible? My lab investigates this question in the taste system of the fruit fly Drosophila, which offers unique tools to study how individual neurons contribute to neural circuit computations. I will discuss ongoing work to characterize the architecture and function of central taste pathways in the fly brain. We are using calcium imaging, optogenetics, high-resolution behavioral assays, and connectomic analyses to study how taste pathways transform sensory representations into motor actions.

In the Devineni lab, we study how the brain integrates information from our internal and external worlds. An animal’s survival depends on interpreting cues from the outside world and selecting an appropriate behavioral response, such as hiding when a predator’s scent is detected. Moreover, behavioral flexibility is crucial for survival. For example, a hungry animal may prioritize finding food over staying hidden. A fundamental challenge in neuroscience is to understand how the brain integrates internal and external cues to generate flexible behavior.We address these questions in the fruit fly taste system. The taste system is a great model to study how the brain integrates different signals to generate flexible behavior. We use our sense of taste to determine what to eat, and our responses to food are profoundly gated by internal signals such as hunger, experience, and reward. The fruit fly Drosophila offers a wiring diagram of the brain and genetic tools to study neural circuits at single-cell resolution. We combine a broad range of approaches, from molecular and cellular studies to optogenetics, functional imaging, connectomics, behavior, and computational analysis and modeling. Our goal is to achieve a mechanistic understanding of how neural circuits integrate and transform information, and how these mechanisms are dysregulated in models of disordered behavior.