Themes and Variations in Social Brain Circuits

  • Speaker
  • Vanessa Ruta, Ph.D.Principal Investigator, Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior, Rockefeller University
    Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Professor Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Date & Time

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Animals exhibit astonishing variation in their behavior, both within and across species.

In this Presidential Lecture, Vanessa Ruta will describe how her lab uses the elaborate courtship rituals of fruit flies (Drosophila) to study the brain circuit mechanisms responsible for adaptive behavior over different timescales. Her work generates insights such as how social interactions unfold on a moment-to-moment timescale and how species-specific mating displays arise through evolution. By applying an interdisciplinary toolkit to probe the concise circuits of the fly, her lab is shedding light on how the interplay between internal arousal states and external sensory signals shapes behavior, allowing animals to flexibly navigate complex social landscapes.

About the Speaker

Ruta received her Ph.D. in 2005 from Rockefeller University, where she worked to define the structural basis for voltage-sensing in voltage-dependent ion channels. During her postdoctoral training at Columbia University, she transitioned from studying structure-function relationships at the molecular level to examining the functional architecture of neural circuits in Drosophila. Ruta joined Rockefeller University at the end of 2011, where she currently heads the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior. The central focus of the Ruta lab is to explore how neural circuits can be flexibly modified through individual experience or over evolution to generate adaptive variations in behavior. Using the concise circuits of the fly, Ruta’s goal is to reveal how these pathways mediate fixed and flexible behaviors at the level of synaptic, cellular and circuit motifs.

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