The major goal of this research proposal is to understand the logic that governs how neural circuits give rise to complex behaviors. I have chosen to focus on aggression, a nearly universal animal behavior that is important for survival and reproduction. The biogenic amine octopamine (OA), and its vertebrate counterpart noradrenalin, play important roles in aggression, as well as a variety of other social behaviors. However, the neural circuits on which these molecules act to regulate different social behaviors have not been well characterized.
The aim of this proposal is to characterize the circuits that mediate the effects of OA on aggressive behavior in the genetically tractable organism Drosophila melanogaster. As an inroad to this problem, I will use genetic tools to alter neuronal activity of octopamine receptor-expressing neurons in vivo in order to answer the following questions: How does the activity of neurons expressing octopamine receptor 2 (Oa2) influence aggressive behaviors? What are the specific subpopulations of Oa2 neurons that are responsible for aggression and do different populations control various aspects of aggressive behavior? How do these Oa2 neuronal circuits function to mediate aggression and what are the neural pathways that they modulate? I will address these questions with the following specific aims:
Aim 1 - Loss-of-function and gain-of-function manipulations of octopamine receptor signaling.
Aim 2 - Identification and characterization of octopamine receptor neuronal subsets.
Aim 3 - Characterization of the projections of individual Oa2 neurons and their post-synaptic targets. Relevance to public health: In humans, aggression that is unchecked, persistent, or expressed out of context has profound negative impacts on society. Aberrant aggressive behavior is also associated with numerous prevalent psychiatric disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol addiction. Investigating aggressive behavior in a genetically tractable model organism will increase our understanding of the basic neural-circuit mechanisms used by the nervous system to control complex behavioral states, such as aggression.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Type
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
Project #
5F32MH086202-03
Application #
8197291
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F01-S (20))
Program Officer
Desmond, Nancy L
Project Start
2009-12-01
Project End
2012-11-30
Budget Start
2011-12-01
Budget End
2012-11-30
Support Year
3
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$53,942
Indirect Cost
Name
California Institute of Technology
Department
None
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
009584210
City
Pasadena
State
CA
Country
United States
Zip Code
91125