The drosophila brain of is an exciting biological object: although it consists of a small number of neurons (about 100,000), it is highly structured and controls sophisticated behavior. A bilateral structure composed of about 4,000 neurons, the mushroom body, plays a central role in associative learning and memory. Interestingly, the brain of drosophila works with the same basic components as that of mammals (neurotransmitters, receptors, signal transduction cascades, transcription factors...), and most of the molecular mechanisms underlying memory processes were preserved during evolution.
Our team "Genes and Dynamics of Memory Systems" investigates the mechanisms of olfactory learning and memory. In particular we deciphered many mechanisms involved in the formation of appetitive or aversive long-term memory. We recently decided to tackle a fascinating question, since we are now studying the links between energy metabolism and memory. Furthermore, we use drosophila as a model system to study the early molecular and cellular disorders that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
From a practical point of view we develop an integrated approach ranging from behavioral studies to molecular studies, through the functional analysis of neural networks. We are in particular specialists of in vivo brain imaging. The activity of biochemical pathways of interest is studied in specific neural networks with genetically expressed fluorescent probes, whose activity is measured by conventional confocal microscopy, spinning-disk microscopy or two-photon microscopy.