Drosophila behaviour and cognition

About 

The van Swinderen laboratory uses the fruit fly model Drosophila melanogaster to investigate perception and cognition. By combining powerful molecular genetic tools with high-throughput behavioural assays and electrophysiology, the group is able to study the underpinnings of complex phenomena such as selective attention, memory, general anaesthesia, and sleep in the simpler fly brain. To pay attention, learn, and sleep, a brain must be able to suppress parts of the outside world effectively. Understanding how this suppression mechanism works is a central question of the laboratory, with a focus on visual systems.

Although sleep and attention might seem very different to us, it is possible that both phenomena involve similar plasticity mechanisms in the brain. This hypothesis, which guides several projects in the lab, was published as an opinion piece in Trends in Neurosciences. In relation to this, recent work done in collaboration with colleagues from the USA (Washington University, St Louis) found that artificially induced sleep is able to restore behavioural plasticity to Drosophila learning mutants (published in Current Biology). The lab is currently investigating how sleep and attention regulate each other in the fly brain.

To better understand attention-like mechanisms in the brain, the van Swinderen laboratory has developed several novel paradigms that allow brain recordings in walking flies as they make decisions. These paradigms, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, allow tracking of visual choices in virtual reality. The group is now also able to record from multiple channels across the fly brain in these behavioural paradigms. In work published in The Journal of Neuroscience this year, the group found that active control increases coherence across the fly brain, compared to when flies are not in control. This has important implications for understanding how brains pay attention, and how sleep may be necessary to maintain optimal attention mechanisms.


Group Publications

Research Areas

  • Visual attention
  • Sleep
  • General anaesthesia
  • Consciousness

Group Leader


Research Members


Students


Support Staff


Selective attention 

The laboratory conducts basic work employing high-throughput behavioural screening, electrophysiology, and molecular genetics to uncover fundamental mechanisms of visual selective attention. Using these approaches, we have found that methylphenidate can correct attention deficits in a fly model of ADHD. The work was published in 2010 in Journal of Neuroscience, and builds on an earlier paradigm published in Science. We have recently improved and automated a device to screen Drosophila for attention-like behaviours following genetic, behavioural, or pharmacological interventions. We have also devised novel ways of recording from multiple sites across the fly brain as it performs attention-like tasks (J Neurophys., 2013).

General anaesthesia 

The mechanism of general anaesthesia remains unknown, despite over 150 years since we began using these drugs for surgery. The reason the mechanism as remained so difficult to tackle probably lies in its complexity, and the fact that few models exist where one can proceed from designing molecular changes to testing clinically-relevant behavioural and electrophysiological endpoints all in the same model organism. We have found that sleep/wake circuits in the fly brain control sensitivity to general anesthetics (Curr. Biol, 2013). We are also focusing on a synaptic hypothesis of general anesthesia, and finding resistant mutant strains that we hope will translate to a better understanding of the mechanism and the design of potential target molecules.

Sleep 

Although everyone spends about a third of their life sleeping, the function of sleep remains mysterious. Sleep deprivation is an increasing concern in modern societies, and deleterious effects of sleep deprivation on attention and performance can be as tragic as the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. We have developed sleep models in Drosophila melanogaster, and are investigating how sleep and attention are mechanistically related in the fly brain. We are currently working on models to induce sleep on demand. We have also discovered different levels of sleep intensity in Drosophila, and hypothesize that these accomplish distinct functions (J. Neurosci, 2013).


In vivo single-molecule imaging of syntaxin1A reveals polyphosphoinositide- and activity-dependent trapping in presynaptic nanoclusters

Bademosi, Adekunle T., Lauwers, Elsa, Padmanabhan, Pranesh, Odierna, Lorenzo, Chai, Ye Jin, Papadopulos, Andreas, Goodhill, Geoffrey J., Verstreken, Patrik, Van Swinderen, Bruno and Meunier, Frederic A. (2017) In vivo single-molecule imaging of syntaxin1A reveals polyphosphoinositide- and activity-dependent trapping in presynaptic nanoclusters. Nature Communications8 . doi:10.1038/ncomms13660

Flux of signalling endosomes undergoing axonal retrograde transport is encoded by presynaptic activity and TrkB

Wang, Tong, Martin, Sally, Nguyen, Tam H., Harper, Callista B., Gormal, Rachel S., Martinez-Marmol, Ramon, Karunanithi, Shanker, Coulson, Elizabeth J., Glass, Nick R., Cooper-White, Justin J., Van Swinderen, Bruno and Meunier, Frederic A. (2016) Flux of signalling endosomes undergoing axonal retrograde transport is encoded by presynaptic activity and TrkB. Nature Communications7 . doi:10.1038/ncomms12976

Intensity of mutualism breakdown is determined by temperature not amplification of Wolbachia genes

Rohrscheib, Chelsie E., Frentiu, Francesca D., Horn, Emilie, Ritchie, Fiona K., van Swinderen, Bruno, Weible, Michael W., O'Neill, Scott L. and Brownlie, Jeremy C. (2016) Intensity of mutualism breakdown is determined by temperature not amplification of Wolbachia genes. PLoS Pathogens12 9: . doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1005888

What is unconsciousness in a fly or a worm? A review of general anesthesia in different animal models

Zalucki, Oressia and Van Swinderen, Bruno (2016) What is unconsciousness in a fly or a worm? A review of general anesthesia in different animal models. Consciousness and Cognition44 72-88. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2016.06.017

Local versus global effects of isoflurane anesthesia on visual processing in the fly brain

Cohen, Dror, Zalucki, Oressia H., van Swinderen, Bruno and Tsuchiya, Naotsugu (2016) Local versus global effects of isoflurane anesthesia on visual processing in the fly brain. eNeuro3 4: . doi:10.1523/ENEURO.0116-16.2016

Evidence for selective attention in the insect brain

De Bivort, Benjamin L. and Van Swinderen, Bruno (2016) Evidence for selective attention in the insect brain. Current Opinion in Insect Science15 9-15. doi:10.1016/j.cois.2016.02.007

Using an abstract geometry in virtual reality to explore choice behaviour: visual flicker preferences in honeybees

Van De Poll, Matthew N., Zajaczkowski, Esmi L., Taylor, Gavin J., Srinivasan, Mandyam V. and van Swinderen, Bruno (2015) Using an abstract geometry in virtual reality to explore choice behaviour: visual flicker preferences in honeybees. Journal of Experimental Biology218 21: 3448-3460. doi:10.1242/jeb.125138

Neurexin-1 regulates sleep and synaptic plasticity in Drosophila melanogaster

Larkin, Aoife, Chen, Ming-Yu, Kirszenblat, Leonie, Reinhard, Judith, van Swinderen, Bruno and Claudianos, Charles (2015) Neurexin-1 regulates sleep and synaptic plasticity in Drosophila melanogaster. European Journal of Neuroscience42 7: 2455-2466. doi:10.1111/ejn.13023

Insects modify their behaviour depending on the feedback sensor used when walking on a trackball in virtual-reality

Taylor, Gavin J., Paulk, Angelique C., Pearson, Thomas W., Moore, Richard J. D., Stacey, Jacqui A., Ball, David, van Swinderen, Bruno and Srinivasan, Mandyam V. (2015) Insects modify their behaviour depending on the feedback sensor used when walking on a trackball in virtual-reality. Journal of Experimental Biology218 19: 3118-3127. doi:10.1242/jeb.125617

Closed-loop behavioral control increases coherence in the fly brain

Paulk, Angelique C., Kirszenblat, Leonie, Zhou, Yanqiong and van Swinderen, Bruno (2015) Closed-loop behavioral control increases coherence in the fly brain. Journal of Neuroscience35 28: 10304-10315. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0691-15.2015

Wolbachia influences the production of octopamine and affects Drosophila male aggression

Rohrscheib, C. E., Bondy, E., Josh, P., Riegler, M., Eyles, D., van Swinderen, B., Weible, M. W. and Brownlie, J. C. (2015) Wolbachia influences the production of octopamine and affects Drosophila male aggression. Applied and Environmental Microbiology81 14: 4573-4580. doi:10.1128/AEM.00573-15

Dscam2 affects visual perception in Drosophila melanogaster

Bosch, Danny S., van Swinderen, Bruno and Millard, S. Sean (2015) Dscam2 affects visual perception in Drosophila melanogaster. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience9 June: 1-13. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00149

Syntaxin1A-mediated resistance and hypersensitivity to isoflurane in Drosophila melanogaster

Zalucki, Oressia H., Menon, Hareesh, Kottler, Benjamin, Faville, Richard, Day, Rebecca, Bademosi, Adekunle T., Lavidis, Nickolas, Karunanithi, Shanker and van Swinderen, Bruno (2015) Syntaxin1A-mediated resistance and hypersensitivity to isoflurane in Drosophila melanogaster. Anesthesiology122 5: 1060-1074. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000629

How deeply does your mutant sleep? Probing arousal to better understand sleep defects in Drosophila

Faville, R., Kottler, B., Goodhill, G. J., Shaw, P. J. and van Swinderen, B. (2015) How deeply does your mutant sleep? Probing arousal to better understand sleep defects in Drosophila. Scientific Reports5 Art No.: 8454: . doi:10.1038/srep08454

Behavioral and electrophysiological analysis of general anesthesia in 3 background strains of Drosophila melanogaster

Zalucki, Oressia, Day, Rebecca, Kottler, Benjamin, Karunanithi, Shanker and van Swinderen, Bruno (2015) Behavioral and electrophysiological analysis of general anesthesia in 3 background strains of Drosophila melanogaster. Fly9 1: 7-15. doi:10.1080/19336934.2015.1072663

Sleep Restores Behavioral Plasticity to Drosophila Mutants

Dissel, Stepane, Angadi, Veena, Kirszenblat, Leonie, Suzuki, Yasuko, Donlea, Jeff, Klose, Markus, Koch, Zachary, English, Denis, Winsky-Sommerer, Raphaelle, van Swinderen, Bruno and Shaw, Paul J. (2015) Sleep Restores Behavioral Plasticity to Drosophila Mutants. Current Biology25 10: 1270-1281. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.03.027

The yin and yang of sleep and attention

Kirszenblat, Leonie and van Swinderen, Bruno (2015) The yin and yang of sleep and attention. Trends in Neurosciences38 12: 776-786. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2015.10.001

Taking a new look at how flies learn

Kottler, Benjamin and Van Swinderen, Bruno (2014) Taking a new look at how flies learn. Elife3 e03978.1-e03978.3. doi:10.7554/eLife.03978

Identification of neurons responsible for feeding behavior in the Drosophila brain

Sun, Fei, Wang, YiJin, Zhou, YanQiong, Van Swinderen, Bruno, Gong, ZheFeng and Liu, Li (2014) Identification of neurons responsible for feeding behavior in the Drosophila brain. Science China-Life Sciences57 4: 391-402. doi:10.1007/s11427-014-4641-2

Selective attention in the honeybee optic lobes precedes behavioral choices

Paulk, Angelique C., Stacey, Jacqueline A., Pearson, Thomas W. J., Taylor, Gavin J., Moore, Richard J. D., Srinivasan, Mandyam V. and Van Swinderen, Bruno (2014) Selective attention in the honeybee optic lobes precedes behavioral choices. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America111 13: 5006-5011. doi:10.1073/pnas.1323297111

FicTrac: A visual method for tracking spherical motion and generating fictive animal paths

Moore, Richard J. D., Taylor, Gavin J., Paulk, Angelique C., Pearson, Thomas, van Swinderen, Bruno and Srinivasan, Mandyam V. (2014) FicTrac: A visual method for tracking spherical motion and generating fictive animal paths.Journal of Neuroscience Methods225 106-119. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2014.01.010

Explaining general anesthesia: A two-step hypothesis linking sleep circuits and the synaptic release machinery

van Swinderen, Bruno and Kottler, Benjamin (2014) Explaining general anesthesia: A two-step hypothesis linking sleep circuits and the synaptic release machinery. BioEssays36 4: 372-381. doi:10.1002/bies.201300154

Multichannel brain recordings in behaving Drosophila reveal oscillatory activity and local coherence in response to sensory stimulation and circuit activation

Paulk, Angelique C., Zhou, Yanqiong, Stratton, Peter, Liu, Li and van Swinderen, Bruno (2013) Multichannel brain recordings in behaving Drosophila reveal oscillatory activity and local coherence in response to sensory stimulation and circuit activation. Journal of Neurophysiology110 7: 1703-1721. doi:10.1152/jn.00414.2013

A dynamic deep sleep stage in Drosophila

van Alphen, Bart, Yap, Melvyn H. W., Kirszenblat, Leonie, Kottler, Benjamin and van Swinderen, Bruno (2013) A dynamic deep sleep stage in Drosophila. Journal of Neuroscience33 16: 6917-6927. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0061-13.2013

A sleep/wake circuit controls isoflurane sensitivity in Drosophila

Kottler, Benjamin, Bao, Hong, Zalucki, Oressia, Imlach, Wendy, Troup, Michael, van Alphen, Bart, Paulk, Angelique, Zhang, Bing and van Swinderen, Bruno (2013) A sleep/wake circuit controls isoflurane sensitivity in Drosophila.Current Biology23 7: 594-598. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.02.021

Drosophila strategies to study psychiatric disorders

van Alphen, Bart and van Swinderen, Bruno (2013) Drosophila strategies to study psychiatric disorders. Brain Research Bulletin92 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2011.09.007

Transient activation of dopaminergic neurons during development modulates visual responsiveness, locomotion and brain activity in a dopamine ontogeny model of schizophrenia

Calcagno, B., Eyles, D., van Alphen, B. and van Swinderen, B. (2013) Transient activation of dopaminergic neurons during development modulates visual responsiveness, locomotion and brain activity in a dopamine ontogeny model of schizophrenia. Translational Psychiatry3 e206.1-e206.10. doi:10.1038/tp.2012.139

Vision in Drosophila: seeing the world through a model's eyes

Paulk, Angelique, Millard, S. Sean and van Swinderen, Bruno (2013) Vision in Drosophila: seeing the world through a model's eyes. Annual Review of Entomology58 313-332. doi:10.1146/annurev-ento-120811-153715

Competing visual flicker reveals attention-like rivalry in the fly brain

van Swinderen, Bruno (2012) Competing visual flicker reveals attention-like rivalry in the fly brain. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience6 OCTOBER 2012: 96.1-96.2. doi:10.3389/fnint.2012.00096

Attentional switching in humans and flies: rivalry in large and miniature brains

Miller, Steven Mark, Ngo, Trung Thanh and van Swinderen, Bruno (2012) Attentional switching in humans and flies: rivalry in large and miniature brains. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience5 JANUARY 2012: 1-17. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2011.00188

Single fly tethered paradigms

van Swinderen, Bruno (2011) Single fly tethered paradigms. Cold Spring Harbor Protocol2011 12: 1488-1491. doi:10.1101/pdb.prot066910

Conditioning to colors: a population assay for visual learning in Drosophila

van Swinderen, Bruno (2011) Conditioning to colors: a population assay for visual learning in Drosophila. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols6 11: 1334-1336. doi:10.1101/pdb.prot066522

The optomotor maze: a population assay for visual perception in Drosophila

van Swinderen, Bruno (2011) The optomotor maze: a population assay for visual perception in Drosophila. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols6 11: 1337-1339. doi:10.1101/pdb.prot066530

An assay for visual learning in individual Drosophila larvae

van Swinderen, Bruno (2011) An assay for visual learning in individual Drosophila larvae. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols6 10: 1200-1202. doi:10.1101/pdb.prot065888

The aversive phototaxic suppression assay for individual adult Drosophila

van Swinderen. Bruno (2011) The aversive phototaxic suppression assay for individual adult Drosophila. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols6 10: 1203-1205. doi:10.1101/pdb.prot065896

Attention in drosophila

van Swinderen, Bruno (2011) Attention in drosophila. International Review of Neurobiology99 51-85. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-387003-2.00003-3

Slamdance: Seizing a fly model for epilepsy

Karunanithi, Shanker and van Swinderen, Bruno (2011) Slamdance: Seizing a fly model for epilepsy. Journal of Neurophysiology106 1: 15-17. doi:10.1152/jn.00382.2011

An automated paradigm for drosophila visual psychophysics

Evans, Oliver, Paulk, Angelique C. and van Swinderen, Bruno (2011) An automated paradigm for drosophila visual psychophysics. PLOS ONE6 6: Article number e21619. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021619

Dopamine in Drosophila: Setting arousal thresholds in a miniature brain

Van Swinderen, Bruno and Andretic, Rozi (2011) Dopamine in Drosophila: Setting arousal thresholds in a miniature brain. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences278 1707: 906-913. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2564

Big ideas for small brains: What can psychiatry learn from worms, flies, bees and fish?

Burne, T. H. J., Scott, E., van Swinderen, B., Hilliard, M., Reinhard, J., Claudianos, C., Eyles, D. W. and McGrath, J. J. (2011) Big ideas for small brains: What can psychiatry learn from worms, flies, bees and fish?. Molecular Psychiatry,16 1: 7-16. doi:10.1038/mp.2010.35

Attention-like deficit and hyperactivity in a Drosophila memory mutant

van Swinderen, Bruno and Brembs, Bjoern (2010) Attention-like deficit and hyperactivity in a Drosophila memory mutant. Journal of Neuroscience30 3: 1003-1014. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4516-09.2010

Fly memory: a mushroom body story in parts

van Swinderen, Bruno (2009) Fly memory: a mushroom body story in parts. Current Biology19 18: R855-R857. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.064

Shared visual attention and memory systems in the Drosophila brain

van Swinderen, Bruno, McCartney, Amber, Kauffman, Sarah, Flores, Kris, Agrawal, Kunal, Wagner, Jenee and Paulk, Angelique (2009) Shared visual attention and memory systems in the Drosophila brain. PLoS One4 6 Article e5989: 1-13. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005989

The attention-span of a fly

van Swinderen, Bruno (2007) The attention-span of a fly. Fly1 3: 187-189.

Attention-like processes in Drosophila Require Short-term Memory Genes

van Swinderen, Bruno (2007) Attention-like processes in Drosophila Require Short-term Memory Genes. Science315 5818: 1590-1593. doi:10.1126/science.1137931

Attention-like processes underlying optomotor performance in a Drosophila Choice Maze

van Swinderen, Bruno and Flores, Kristopher A. (2007) Attention-like processes underlying optomotor performance in a Drosophila Choice Maze. Journal of Neurobiology67 129-145. doi:10.1002/dneu.20334

A succession of anesthetic endpoints in the Drosophila brain

van Swinderen, Bruno (2006) A succession of anesthetic endpoints in the Drosophila brain. Journal of Neurobiology,66 11: 1195-1211. doi:10.1002/neu.20300

Dopaminergic modulation of arousal in Drosophila

Andretic, Rozi, van Swinderen, Bruno and Greenspan, Ralph J. (2005) Dopaminergic modulation of arousal in Drosophila. Current Biology15 13: 1165-1175. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.05.025

Flexibility in a gene network affecting a simple behavior in Drosophila melanogaster

van Swinderen, Bruno and Greenspan, Ralph J. (2005) Flexibility in a gene network affecting a simple behavior in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics169 4: 2151-2163. doi:10.1534/genetics.103.023341

Cognitive consonance: complex brain functions in the fruit fly and its relatives

Greenspan, Ralph J. and van Swinderen, Bruno (2004) Cognitive consonance: complex brain functions in the fruit fly and its relatives. Trends in Neurosciences27 12: 707-711. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2004.10.002

Uncoupling of brain activity from movement defines arousal states in Drosophila

van Swinderen, B., Nitz, D.A. and Greenspan, R.J. (2004) Uncoupling of brain activity from movement defines arousal states in Drosophila. Current Biology14 2: 81-87. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2003.12.057

Arousal in Drosophila

van Swinderen, Bruno and Andretic Rozi (2003) Arousal in Drosophila. Behavioural Processes64 2: 133-144. doi:10.1016/S0376-6357(03)00131-1

Salience modulates 20-30 Hz brain activity in Drosophila

van Swinderen, Bruno and Greenspan, Ralph J. (2003) Salience modulates 20-30 Hz brain activity in Drosophila.Nature Neuroscience6 6: 579-586. doi:10.1038/nn1054

Electrophysiological correlates of rest and activity in Drosophila melanogaster

Nitz, Douglas A., van Swinderen, Bruno, Tononi, Giulio and Greenspan, Ralph J. (2002) Electrophysiological correlates of rest and activity in Drosophila melanogaster. Current Biology12 22: 1934-1940. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(02)01300-3


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