This project will examine neural circuits that make up a unique region of the insect brain, called the central complex, and will study its role in guiding the insect as it turns to move around barriers. This large midline brain region appears to be involved in processing large amounts of sensory information, then using it to influence movement. The Ritzmann laboratory will employ a range of electrophysiological and behavioral techniques to examine how central complex circuits process mechanical and visual information from antennae and eyes and to identify the neurons that perform these functions. Regions of the central complex will then be reversibly inactivated with local anesthetics to examine their effects on behavior. The results are critical to our understanding of how brain systems influence complex movements. They will complement recent advances in motor control stemming from neurogenetic techniques from several other laboratories. Indeed, because similar interactions between higher brain systems and local reflexes exist in virtually all legged animals, including vertebrates, the results will have wide ranging neurobiological impact. Moreover, the PI has a long-term commitment to bringing knowledge of biological systems to the design of legged robots. As such, the project should also lead to more advanced robots that can move autonomously through tortuous terrain with less direction from a driver. The project will continue the PI?s successful record of training both graduate and undergraduate students and extend this opportunity to pre-college students. Undergraduate and pre-college students will have the opportunity to work directly with graduate students and other senior laboratory personnel on the project under the direct guidance of Dr. Ritzmann. This arrangement generates a unique opportunity for novices to experience research while providing mentorship experience for the senior personnel.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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David Coppola
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Case Western Reserve University
United States
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