Research - From Genes and Neurons to Behavior
Neural networks are made of connected neurons. Their orchestrated activity generates complex behavioral outputs, such as foraging for food and seeking for a mating partner. But how does the collective activity of neurons generate meaning? Moreover, how gene expression programs shape neural activity and consequently behavior?
To address these fundamental questions we use C. elegans worms as the animal model system. With a fully-mapped wiring diagram of 302 neurons, and its compatibility with a myriad of molecular and genetic manipulations, C. elegans worms offer a unique opportunity to address such questions.
In the lab, we study these questions on multiple levels - from gene expression programs and functional dynamics in single neurons to computation in neural circuits and behavior. For this, we use Systems Biology approaches combining experiments, modelling and theory.
Computation in Neural Circuits
We are studying functional dynamics in the network with a single neuron resolution to elucidate the computational roles of various neural circuits. For this we use Optogenetic tools and advanced imaging techniques. Experimental work is then complemented with modeling and theory.
Encoding and Decision Making
In this context, we study how C. elegans animals encode the 'perplexing' outside world. We are interested to reveal how environmental information is sensed, integrated and propagated in the neural network.
Consequently, we study how animals make decisions based on the features extracted from the environment.
Plasticity in Neural Networks
Learning and Memory
Aging and Stress
The neural network is dynamic and subject to plasticity. Animals can therefore benefit from learning and storing acquired information, but network functionality can also be disrupted due to progressive deteriorating processes (e.g. Neurodegeneration and aging). We study the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the plasticity of neural networks.