The locomotion of humans and other animals requires a seamless flow of information from sensory modalities all the way to the motor periphery. As such, locomotion is an excellent system for understanding how the brain modifies neural signals from one processing stage to the next, ultimately transforming sensory signals into a code that controls motor output and behavior. The presentations in this panel represent a sample of the work being conducted by a consortium of seven laboratories supported by a U19 grant through the Brain Initiative. Our research exploits a single, experimentally tractable model system, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, in which we can easily study the functions of genetically identified cell classes in ethologically relevant behaviors. The team’s long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive theory of animal behavior that explicitly incorporates neural processes operating across hierarchical levels — from circuits that regulate the action of individual muscles to those that regulate behavioral sequences and decisions. The talks in this panel – all delivered by graduate students and post-docs - will highlight a range of experimental approaches that collectively constitutes a systematic attack on the neural basis of behavior that integrates vertically across phenomenological tiers.
1. Introduce the audience to the concept of integrative approaches in neuroscience
2. Provide research examples spanning a range of phenomenological tiers, from local sensory-motor circuits to behavior
3. Illustrate the utility of Drosophila as a model system in neuroscience