My group is interested in elucidating the neuronal mechanisms of brain development and plasticity, using the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) as a model organism. We are particularly interested in analyzing the brain networks involved in higher brain functions such as memory and cognition. Past studies have disclosed unexpected similarities in the genetic programs of brain development in flies and vertebrates. We have demonstrated that the Drosophila Pax6 genes eyeless and twin-of-eyeless play major roles in the development of mushroom bodies, which are centers for higher brain functions such as memory in the fly brain. In light of these commonalities, we are also studying the molecular and genetic bases of human cognitive disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia by using the genetic tools available in this fascinating model system.
Confocal image of the Drosophila brain Green: olfactory projection neurons labeled with GH146-GAL4.
Red: Homothorax protein expression.
Blue: Neuropiles stained with anti-NC82.