All animal behaviours depend on engaging the motor system. Yet, despite its central importance, we know very little about how the motor system is engaged by nervous systems to generate highly rhythmic locomotor behaviors, such as walking. Moreover, the same motor systems that are used for walking have the remarkable facility to be reconfigured in a wide variety of ways, for example, to allow animals to run, jump, or scratch an itch. Our long-term goal is to understand how animal nervous systems produce such distinct motor outputs using the same set of motor neurons and muscles, with a focus on locomotion. We study this problem in the fruit fly because of its powerful genetic tools and complex-but not too complex-set of behaviors and nervous system.
In this talk, Professor Richard Mann, Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University, will describe his efforts to develop high resolution assays to study locomotion in the fruit fly, his recent attempts to genetically dissect this neural circuitry, and how a common motor ground plan can be modified by neuromodulators to execute alternate types of related motor outputs. He may also describe our efforts to dissect the development of the motor system, since how it is constructed may provide important insights into how it functions.
For further information, please contact Fiona Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the speaker
Richard Mann is Higgins Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and holds an interdisciplinary appointment in the Department of Systems Biology at Columbia University. He received his PhD from MIT for work on retroviruses and was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Hogness at Stanford, studying Hox genes in Drosophila. His lab, established in 1990, works on three big problems, all using the fruit fly as the experimental system: 1) how transcription factors find the correct targets and regulate the correct genes in vivo; 2) how appendages develop; and 3) how flies walk in a coordinated manner.