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Why do fruitflies like bananas?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Phil Cowans.

The fruitfly brain is small – containing about 100,000 neurons – but flies can fly, walk, smell, hear, see, learn, recognise and mate with appropriate partners and sing. I am interested in how brain circuitry is wired together and how this circuitry allows the animal to behave. Although most of these behaviours can be modified by experience, there seems to be a significant role for genetically controlled, innate behaviours and this I find particularly interesting. How can genes regulate species-specific behaviour?

My own works focuses on the sense of smell. The olfactory system is a highly parallel neural network. At the level of the nose smells are decomposed into the activity of many sub-populations of neurons. I will present work that analyse the logic of how the olfactory system is put together – especially the issue of wiring specificity. I will also discuss some current work that uses 3D image registration to improve our knowledge of the wiring diagram. This is a prelude to my main goal over the next few years in Cambridge – to understand how smells are represented in higher olfactory centres and to how understand how this representation is generated by successive levels of neural processing.

This talk is part of the Inference Group series.

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