FRI Biology Stream

Behavioral Neuroscience

behavior, Drosophila melanogaster, genetics, neuroscience

our research

Our Research

The Behavioral Neuroscience stream investigates gene function in behavior and maps neuron circuits of the brain to behavior in the fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster) model system. Researchers achieve this by reducing or eliminating the expression of hypothesized genes for certain fly behaviors and studying the effect of the manipulation on the behaviors.

To study neuron function, we also use optogenetics to activate or reduce activity of defined neurons and explore the outcome of the manipulation. These manipulations are achieved on a genetic level in the organism using transmission genetics to create the required transgene and mutant combinations in the fly.

Behavioral Neuroscience student researchers

Our Strategy

We investigate for gaps in knowledge in the field of neuroscience, develop approaches to address those gaps, generate the knowledge required and publish and disseminate to science.

Students focus on the development of experimental design, critical/ analytical thinking and interpretation of literature, and data analysis. In addition, our researchers develop teamwork and collaborative skills through wet lab experimentation  and written and verbal scientific communication. 

Behavioral Neuroscience Research Techniques

  • data analysis using R
  • optogenetics
  • fly transmission genetics
  • fly behaviors

Our Impact

Our research generates knowledge of genes, signaling pathways and biological mechanisms underlying behavior. We investigate several behaviors such as alcohol sensitivity, courtship, aggression and learning and memory. Many genes and pathways involved in behavior and disease in humans have analogous pathways in the Drosophila system. This, along with its outstanding gene manipulation toolkit, makes this organism an optimal model to study behavioral traits and diseases in humans.

Our Team

Profile image of Thilini Wijesekera

Thilini Wijesekera

  • Assistant Professor of Practice
  • Freshman Research Initiative
  • College of Natural Sciences

Research Educator | Behavioral Neuroscience Stream

Profile image of Nigel Atkinson

Nigel Atkinson

  • Professor
  • Neuroscience


Course Credit
Research Outcomes