BMBF Research Group Olfactory Coding
Neural circuits underlying olfactory coding and processing in Drosophila
Most organisms rely on their olfactory system to detect and analyze chemical cues in the environment, cues which are subsequently utilized in the context of behavior. The central question of this group is to investigate how odors are coded and processed in the brain to lead to a specific odor perception. The basic layout of the first olfactory processing centers, the olfactory bulb in vertebrates and the antennal lobe in insects, is remarkably similar. Odors are encoded by specific ensembles of activated glomeruli (the structural and functional units of the bulb-lobe) in a combinatorial manner. The vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster provides an attractive model organism for studying olfaction, as it allows genetic, molecular and physiological analyses. The key method is optical recording of the Drosophila brain, which allows visualizing spatial as well as temporal components of neuronal activity. We are performing calcium and chloride functional imaging to visualize excitatory as well as inhibitory components of the olfactory code. The goal is to decipher basic principles involved in olfactory transduction, coding, processing and perception of odors.