Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University of Oxford
Plasticity, Learning, and Memory
Title of talk:
The Drosophila melanogaster mushroom bodies (MBs) have been a beacon of scientific research since neuroscientists made the first steps in understanding the processes of learning and memory. Ever since, the extensive arsenal of genetic tools that the fruit fly offers has been used to identify neuronal subsets that contribute to olfactory memory. Scott Waddell’s line of research has managed to functionally divide these neurons in sets that contribute differentially to memory formation and consolidation. Using advanced genetic techniques and two-photon microscopy in combination with classical pavlovian conditioning, they identified groups of dopaminergic neurons, which represent motivational control of behaviour by adding labels to the newly formed olfactory memories associated with presence of food. These neurons in turn, promote or inhibit food seeking behaviour. More recent breakthroughs include uncovering the importance of nutritional value in determining the persistence of memories and the investigation of somatic transposition and its importance in neuronal diversity and age-dependent decline. The Waddell group is also currently investigating how learned information in D. melanogaster can be re-evaluated, tested for its accuracy, neutralised by extinction, maintained and re-stored.