Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior

We are interested in an organism’s ability to interact with its environment, evaluate choices and produce behavioral outputs. In addressing these complex processes our lab focuses on small circuits with measurable behavioral outputs in organisms that can be genetically manipulated.

The specific research interests of the Sitaraman lab are as follows:

  1. Innate and learned behaviors: Nervous system plasticity is best manifested at the level of behaviors. An important focus area in the lab is to develop and validate novel classical and operant learning paradigms. In addition to developing these paradigms, the lab has an active interest in studying innate behaviors such as sleep and arousal.
  2. Genetic basis of behavior: A variety of neurogenetic techniques in the context of learning and sleep have identified neurotransmitter and neuropeptide modulators that underlie these behaviors. Beyond these modulatory signals, circuit level interpretation of behavior in Drosophila is severely lacking. As a first step in cracking the neuronal pathways underlying the sleep circuit, the lab is invested in identifying the individual neurons of the circuit. To this end Dr. Sitaraman has an active collaboration with Dr. Michael Nitabach at Yale University and Dr. Gerry Rubin at Janelia Research Campus/HHMI ( Janelia Visitor Project 2014-2015) to develop strategies and test cell specific tools in the context of sleep regulation.
  3. Cellular/ Circuit level dynamics of behavior: Cellular excitability and synaptic function in behavioral control networks of the fly can only be addressed with novel imaging and electrophysiological approaches. Using validated calcium imaging and novel voltage imaging approaches in Drosophila the Sitaraman lab hopes to identify the properties of synaptic connectivity and plasticity underlying innate and learned behaviors.

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