Understanding the rules of life

Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Category: Standard Studentships

Genetic control of neural circuits assembly

Project No. 2202

Primary Supervisor

Dr Jimena Berni – University of Sussex


Dr Melissa Andrew – University of Southampton

Dr Katrin Deinhard – University of Southampton


Animals generate different movements associated with different specialised body parts along their body.

We, for example breathe (diaphragm), chew (mouth) and walk (legs). The nerve circuits that control these movements are located at different points along the nervous system. This means that as the nervous system develops, groups of nerve cells at different positions are specifically assembled to make the different circuits for these specialised behaviours. How is this controlled?

We know that the Hox genes have a role in this process and the project will investigate exactly how they control the formation of locally specific neuronal networks required for movement. We use the fruit fly Drosophila because developmental mechanisms are conserved among different animals and because Drosophila is excellent for genetic and cellular manipulations. We develop and apply the best methods required to answer our specific biological questions (e.g. electronic microscopy connectomics, calcium imaging, expansion microscopy, single cell sequencing, frustrated total internal reflection method for behaviour, etc…). The basic nature of this question strongly suggests that the findings will have implications for understanding the genetic control of neuronal circuitry in many nervous systems including our own.