The long term goal is to provide a framework to understand how a simple, innate behavior emerges from the activity of the nervous system. For this, molecular genetics techniques, electrophysiology and imaging technologies to study the mechanisms underlying temperature processing and preference in Drosophila -a system ideally suited for a comprehensive genetic and molecular dissection of neural circuits and behaviors, are applied. The lab's recent work has demonstrated that a simple sensory map represents temperature stimuli in the fly brain. It has also shown that a coordinated ensemble of second order neurons extracts information about the sign, onset, magnitude and duration of a temperature change from this simple map. The research is now proposing to delve deeper into the cellular and molecular mechanism that make this transformation possible. The expectation is that the results of this work will reveal new mechanisms and principles of somatosensory processing in the nervous system, will complement discoveries on differential feature extraction in other sensory modalities, and will have implications of interest to the broader neuroscience community, informing work on information processing within neural circuits. This work is also expected to contribute to the general understanding of the function of the neural circuits that control somatosensory responses (temperature and pain) in animals, potentially providing insights on genetic and neurological conditions which affect neuronal excitability resulting in devastating medical conditions such as chronic pain.

Public Health Relevance

The long-term goal is to understand how sensory stimuli are represented in the brain and integrated to produce directed behaviors. The studies outlined here will provide insight into the neural basis of temperature processing and preference, and be useful in understanding the function of the nervous system in normal and disease state.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular Neurogenetics Study Section (MNG)
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Gnadt, James W
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Frank, Dominic D; Enjin, Anders; Jouandet, Genevieve C et al. (2017) Early Integration of Temperature and Humidity Stimuli in the Drosophila Brain. Curr Biol 27:2381-2388.e4
Arenas, Oscar M; Zaharieva, Emanuela E; Para, Alessia et al. (2017) Activation of planarian TRPA1 by reactive oxygen species reveals a conserved mechanism for animal nociception. Nat Neurosci 20:1686-1693
Enjin, Anders; Zaharieva, Emanuela E; Frank, Dominic D et al. (2016) Humidity Sensing in Drosophila. Curr Biol 26:1352-8
Macpherson, Lindsey J; Zaharieva, Emanuela E; Kearney, Patrick J et al. (2015) Dynamic labelling of neural connections in multiple colours by trans-synaptic fluorescence complementation. Nat Commun 6:10024
Frank, Dominic D; Jouandet, Genevieve C; Kearney, Patrick J et al. (2015) Temperature representation in the Drosophila brain. Nature 519:358-61