Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Michael Tibbetts

Project Advisor 2

Michael Crickmore

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Pairing discrete behaviors to individual neurons and neural circuits has been one of the main goals in neuroscience since the field’s inception. Here we investigate the neuronal control of the physiologically essential behaviors of development and feeding drive in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) larvae, a fairly straightforward system wherein many genes and pathways central to both development and feeding behavior are highly conserved between flies and mammals. In this study we identify a group of approximately 50 neurons in the Drosophila ganglion which, when ablated in larvae, induce a reduced feeding rate and a developmental phenotype characterized by retarded growth rates, arrest in the second larval instar, and precocious third instar behaviors, including early wandering and clumping. This implies that these neurons play a role in promoting the drive to feed, and the molt from second to third instar. From these data, we hypothesize that this group of neurons operate through both the Drosophila neuropeptide y-like system, which acts here to regulate feeding behavior as well as influence growth and precocious wandering and clumping, and the 20-hydroxyecdysone pathway, which, here, controls third instar development. This study provides an important entry point to investigate the neuronal basis of drive and development and the potential link therein. Further research into this group of neurons and the circuit(s) to which they belong may lead to major insights about the neuronal regulation of complex behaviors and, eventually, a deeper understanding of how the brain controls development and drive.

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