Robin Hiesinger, Ph.D.
Understanding Brain Wiring
Neurogenetics is the study of the genes that shape neuronal development and function.
The genetic approach implies that it is indeed genes, their regulation and their products, that give rise to the complexity of neuronal networks.
Specifying synaptic partners and regulating synapse numbers are critical steps during visual map formation that are at least partly activity-dependent in all systems investigated to date. In contrast, in the Drosophila visual system each photoreceptor forms a precise and constant number of synapses independently of both neuronal activity and synaptic partner accuracy.
How can a few thousand genes and their regulatory elements contain the information required to, say, wire a fly's brain to be capable of a feat like computing safe flight in three dimensions? Our lab focusses on understanding the mechanisms that lead to the synaptic specificity underlying such accurate and reproducible wiring of neuronal networks.
Our data suggest a cell-autonomous genetic program controlling synapse numbers as part of a developmental program of activity-independent steps that lead to a 'hard-wired' visual map in the fly brain. One major goal of our lab is to understand the molecular and cellular basis of these developmental and genetic programs.