Many arthropod species are expert navigators, but a detailed neural account of arthropod navigation is not yet at hand. In this seminar I will discuss cell-physiological and neuronal perturbation experiments in behaving fruit flies. The goal of these experiments is to determine how spatial variables, like angles and distances, are calculated by the tiny Drosophila brain and how these variables influence navigational behavior. The talk will focus on the role of the central complex--a prominent set of neuropils in the middle of the insect brain--in performing quantitative variable calculations for guiding navigation.
The Maimon lab aims to understand how brains internally compute and store the value of quantitative variables-like heading angles, spatial distances, time intervals, and event probabilities-and then use these variables to guide behavior. By studying this topic in Drosophila, a classic genetic system, the team's long-term goal is to better understand how molecules, through their effect on cellular electrophysiology, impact memory and cognition.