Yan Zhu on Neural Circuits and Behavior in Drosophila melanogaster
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I am interested in the neural basis of animal behavior, particularly how visual information is computed by neural networks. Using Drosophila as a model system, which has ~500,000 times fewer neurons than humans, I study the molecular, genetic, and functional mechanisms by which observable behaviors are orchestrated through specific neural circuits. Under laboratory settings, normal Drosophila exhibit robust and stereotypic behaviors that can be readily observed, such as visually guided locomotion, intraspecific communication, and long range odor localization. Integrating molecular neurogenetics and quantitative behavioral analysis, I study the behavioral deficits of animals that have specific neural circuits genetically inactivated. Furthermore, I apply physio-behavioral assays on genetic mutants to rapidly evaluate the roles of underlying genes in the organization and modulation of the animal behaviors.