Yang Lab@ Duke Neurobiology

Drosophila learning and decision-making

We are interested in understanding the circuit mechanisms by which animal brains decode the biological value (e.g., attractiveness) of sensory stimuli to guide simple decisions. We use Drosophila egg-laying site selection as our model system. We found that Drosophila females show clear preferences when tasked to rank the relative attractiveness of suitable egg-laying sites. To understand how the Drosophila brain assesses the relative attractiveness of sensory stimuli for egg-laying, we use a combined approach that includes high throughput behavioral screen using custom-built chambers, automated (machine vision) behavioral tracking of single animals (Movie 1), molecular genetic approaches to identify critical circuit components (Figure 1), and calcium imaging (Movie 2) and anatomical tracing techniques to determine the physical and functional connectivity of identified circuit components.

Movie 1 Tracking Drosophila in our egg-laying chambers using Ctrax. Sped up 10-fold. Note that the left (wild-type) and right (mutant) flies have opposite egg-laying preferences.

Movie 2 Calcium imaging of Drosophila GABAergic neurons. Sped up 2-fold.

Figure 1 Targeted labeling of Drosophila ILP7 neurons.