A Molecular Geneticist’s Approach to Understanding the Fly Brain

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About Life Sciences

Life Sciences lectures are open to the public and are held at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation headquarters in New York City. Tea is served prior to each lecture.

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In this lecture, Gerald Rubin will discuss efforts to develop and apply the tools that will be required for a comprehensive analysis of the anatomy and function of the fly brain at the level of individual cell types and circuits, using examples from his lab’s recent work on visual perception, as well as the mechanisms of learning and memory.

Rubin will describe how an analysis of neuronal cell types and their connectivity can be combined with quantitative behavioral and physiological data to probe the mechanisms underlying fundamental neuronal computations. By assaying and manipulating the function of well-defined neurons (individual cell types), his team seeks to work toward models of how neural circuits control behavior. Many of the tools and data sets required to support such a comprehensive approach are now becoming available in Drosophila, an animal exhibiting many complex behaviors. Will they be sufficient to understand how a brain executes complex computations to achieve sophisticated behaviors? Time will tell.

About the Speaker

Gerald M. Rubin graduated from MIT in 1971, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1974 and did postdoctoral work at Stanford University. He held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School and the Carnegie Institution for Science before moving to UC Berkeley in 1983 to assume the John D. MacArthur Professorship of Genetics and was appointed a HHMI investigator in 1987. He became the founding director of HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus in 2003.

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