How does the brain extract information about sensory stimuli? How is this information utilized to guide behavior and to form memories? We address these questions in the appealingly simple nervous system of the fruitfly, where we focus on olfactory processing. Our overall goal is to understand how olfactory information is represented in terms of neural spike trains, and how associative learning modifies those representations.
Experimentally, our approach involves a combination of techniques. We directly monitor activity of neurons in the brain of an intact fly with patch clamp recordings and multiphoton imaging techniques. Using molecular genetic techniques we can manipulate neural firing to directly test our predictions about neural coding, both at the level of spike trains and behavior.
See "Making Sense of Smell" [PDF] to read more about how research groups at CSHL are learning how the brain works by studying olfaction.