Illuminating how the brain is built

The axons, dendrites, and synapses of individual neurons must be positioned at appropriate targets to establish and maintain functional neural circuits. Our long-term goals are to elucidate how cellular signaling establishes neural circuits, to understand how cellular communication translates into neural morphogenesis, and to dissect how disruption of neural circuit assembly may result in impairments in neurodevelopmental diseases.

We are particularly interested in illuminating the molecular mechanisms that drive initiation of neural connectivity, a critical process that is greatly under-explored. In the past, we have studied this problem in the fruit fly Drosophila Melanogaster. This system is amenable to analysis using genetic tools and live imaging. In more recent work, we have expanded our research focus into the development of super-resolution microscopy techniques and fluorescent protein tagging of endogenous proteins and looked at the fly brain at high spatial resolution.

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