Project 3

Processing of olfactory and auditory cues in the insect brain

Prof. Dr. Manuela Nowotny (main supervisor)
Institute of Zoological Research and Evolution, Friedrich Schiller University
Dr. Silke Sachse (co supervisor)
Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

As peripheral sensory organs, insect antenna detect multimodal environmental information. The receptor neurons that path information to the brain code for instance auditory, olfactory and hygro-thermosensitive information. Especially for mate recognition and selection during courtship, female Drosophila uses near field sound information and olfactory cues of the male. How processing of these different modalities interferes in the brain is unknown and subject of the planned project.

Project description:
The goal of our PhD project is to examine bimodal processing of acoustic and olfactory information in the insect brain (bushcrickets/katydids and Drosophila). This study combines a broad spectrum of methodological approaches, starting from mechanical measurements of the antennal motion in Drosophila by optical coherence measurements [1] up to neurophysiological and functional imaging techniques [2]. We aim to identify interaction and modulatory processes of these sensory modalities in the insect brain, which also offers the use of neurogenetic tools.

Candidate profile:
We are looking for a highly motivated and creative candidate with training in ear mechanics, neurophysiology or neurogenetics. Experiences with insect research is useful. A master’s degree in Neuroscience, Biology or related discipline is required for this PhD position.

Reading (optional):
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  1. Vavakou A, Scherberich J, Nowotny M, van der Heijden (2021). Tuned vibration modes in a miniature hearing organ - insights from the bushcricket. PNAS 118(39):e2105234118.
  2. Das Chakraborty S, Chang H, Hansson BS, Sachse S (2022). Higher-order olfactory neurons in the lateral horn support odor valence and odor identity coding in Drosophila. eLife. 11:e74637.


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