Tom Hindmarsh Sten is a graduate student in Vanessa Ruta’s laboratory at Rockefeller University. He grew up in the countryside in southern Sweden and completed his undergraduate training in neuroscience at New York University. As an undergraduate, he worked in the laboratory of Robert Froemke to develop computational models of how mice and other rodents acquire and utilize knowledge about their surroundings. At Rockefeller, Hindmarsh Sten works at the interface between computational and experimental neuroscience to delineate the neural circuit mechanisms that enable animals to flexibly change the way they interact with the world depending on their internal state and homeostatic needs. Outside of the laboratory, he is an avid cook, fiction reader and political junkie.
Principal Investigator: Vanessa Ruta
Fellow: Shadé Eleazer
“State-dependent circuits for flexible behavior in Drosophila”
Internal arousal states motivate distinct patterns of behavior over short and long timescales, allowing for the temporary emergence of innate behavioral programs like fighting, feeding and mating that subserve the needs of an animal. In this project, we will take advantage of the rich behavioral repertoire and genetic tractability of Drosophila to investigate how internal states regulate information flow in the nervous system to shape an animal’s ongoing behavior. In natural social settings, male flies rapidly switch between performing courtship displays toward females and aggressively fighting competing males. The fellow will contribute to studies of how dynamic changes in a male fly’s state of sexual or aggressive arousal trigger distinct behavioral responses to the visual profile of another fly. The fellow will work with the mentor to develop novel tools for analysis of quantitative behavioral data, examine correlations between ongoing neural activity and behavior, and design circuit models.