The Seth Tomchik Laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute Florida | Research Projects

Research Projects

Understanding how the brain works, how its functions go awry in disease states, and how we can approach treating these diseases are fundamental goals of neuroscience research.  To make substantial progress in unraveling the complex functions of the brain, it is critical to understand how neuronal circuits acquire, process, and store information, as well as how the nervous system uses this information to modify behavior.

Our laboratory is interested in the how the brain guides innate and learned behaviors.  We study both normal brain function and dysfunction in disease states, using the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.  The powerful genetics of this model system, combined with our approaches for in vivo imaging and localized manipulation of neuronal activity, enable deep characterization of neuronal circuit function.  Currently we are focusing on how dopaminergic pathways are involved in shaping behaviors in Drosophila melanogaster.  This overarching theme is broken down into several major directions.  First, we are studying the roles of candidate signaling molecules that are potentially involved in dopamine-dependent memory trace formation. In addition, we are looking at how major signaling pathways (such as cAMP/PKA) are activated during learning, and how activation of these pathways modulates the responses of the neurons that encode memories. Finally, we are examining how neuronal responses are altered following memory acquisition or upon salient environmental changes, with a focus on dopaminergic circuit function.

In pursuit of these goals, we use in vivo imaging of novel genetically encoded fluorescent reporters in both live flies and in isolated, intact brains. These imaging techniques, combined with behavioral analysis of mutant and wild-type animals and genetic screens, provide multiple angles to approach the function of molecules, neurons, and circuits involved in innate and learned behaviors in exquisite detail.