A pivotal question in neuroscience focuses on how the morphology and structure of the brain relates to its function and thereby its behavioral relevance. Behavioral neurobiology utilizes a wide array of techniques in order to unravel the neural mechanisms underlying animal behavior and to understand how these circuits and pathways within the brain translate into the natural behaviors that are associated with an animal’s specific ecological niche, for example, in regards to decisions concerning host navigation or mate selection.
I study a variety of insect species within the genus Drosophila in order to understand how the brain controls behavioral decision-making. In general, I am interested in how the brain functions and is shaped by ecology and evolution. More specifically, animal behavior utilizes simultaneous input from several body regions (i.e. eyes, nose, ears, and mouth) and in turn, the brain receives information from many sensory modalities (e.g. visual, olfactory, auditory, and gustatory). Therefore, by studying several sensory systems within the brain of a single organism, our research goals are to develop a multimodal neuronal innervation model to further our understanding of neuroanatomy as well as complex animal behavior. Here, by then comparing the neuroanatomy of many closely related organisms, we hope to identify similarities, differences as well as common trends in how the brain is first organized and then optimized for each animal species in their natural environment.
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