John Tuthill - Neural Mechanisms of Limb Proprioception in the fruit fly (Drosophila)
From Steven Marzec
Proprioception, the sense of self-movement and body position, is critical for the effective control of motor behavior. Humans lacking proprioceptive feedback, such as patients with peripheral nerve damage, are unable to maintain limb posture or coordinate fine-scale movements of the arms and legs. However, we currently know very little about how proprioceptive stimuli are detected by sensory neurons, processed by neural circuits, and subsequently used to guide behavior. To understand the neural computations that occur in sensorimotor circuits, my lab studies the compact nervous system of the genetic model organism, Drosophila. We combine genetic tools with calcium imaging, electrophysiology, and 3D behavioral tracking to understand how the fly nervous systems senses the limbs and uses proprioceptive feedback to control its body. Because the basic building blocks of invertebrate and vertebrate brains are fundamentally similar, the general principles of neural computation discovered in the fruit fly will be highly relevant to proprioceptive processing and motor control in other animals.