Ilona Grunwald Kadow
Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology
The focus of my group is the formation and function of the olfactory nervous system. To this aim we combine Drosophila genetics with behavioral studies, anatomy, electrophysiology and functional imaging. An important aspect of our research is that we try to understand nervous system development and features in the context of evolution. Therefore, we have recently expanded our model systems to additional insect species. Specifically, we are investigating two main questions. First, because odors are detected and translated by specific receptor neurons into an odor-specific connectivity map in the brain, we are interested in the mechanisms of class specific wiring. Second, we ask how the structure of the olfactory nervous system relates to the behavior it controls. In particular, we wish to understand how positive cues (e.g. CO2 to mosquito) and negative cues (e.g. CO2 to flies) are encoded in the brain, and how decision making depends on internal and external context. To identify the neural circuitry underpinning valence decisions, we are using two main approaches. First, we have used a candidate approach testing previously identified neuronal marker lines for their behavior to olfactory cues and for neuronal activity upon odor stimulation using functional imaging. Second, we are using behavioral screening for neurons involved in innate olfactory attraction or avoidance. Our long term goal is to understand how neural networks underpinning valence decisions form and function.
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