Projects offered for Master students, PhD students and Postdocs

Master thesis

3D antennal lobe atlas of various Drosophila species

The antennal lobe, the first olfactory center of the insect brain, has been comprehensively elucidated in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, while we know very little about the anatomical and functional organization in non-melanogaster species. The aim of this project is to morphologically characterize the antennal lobe of various Drosophila species and to generate a 3D digital atlas with identified glomeruli analogous to the atlas of D. melanogaster (Grabe et al., 2015). The obtained atlases will provide the basis for future functional studies of this important brain area.

Contact: Dr. Silke Sachse, Dr. Markus Knaden

PhD thesis

Impact of internal state on odor coding in higher brain centers of the fly

We and others could recently show that odors are represented according to their behavioral value in higher brain centers, such as the lateral horn (Strutz et al., 2014). Hence odors are categorized into good and bad resulting in approach or avoidance behavior. However, the behavioral value of an odor is influenced by the internal state of the fly. A hungry fly perceives a food odor as more attractive than a satiated fly, and a virgin female is more attracted to the sexual pheromone cVA than a mated female. In this project we aim to decipher how the internal state of a fly is modulating the neural representation of odors in the lateral horn and whether this is correlated to the behavioral output.

Contact: Dr. Silke Sachse


Identification of higher-order neurons to complete the olfactory neural circuitry

In order to understand higher olfactory processing it is fundamental to identify the neurons beyond the antennal lobe. We therefore aim at finding the synaptic partners of olfactory projection neurons that carry the odor information from the antennal lobe to higher brain centers. In order to anatomically and functionally characterize these higher-order neurons, immuno-histochemistry and 2-photon imaging will be applied. Moreover, we will use various behavioral assays to analyze their relevance for odor-guided behavior by selective silencing. The final goal is to identify higher-order neurons that readout behavioral significance and consequently facilitate perceptual decision-making.

Contact: Dr. Silke Sachse