State-dependent modulation of innate behaviour via asymmetric neural circuits


  • Dr Elena Dragomir

    University College London, United Kingdom

Project summary

In making even the simplest decisions, we take into account a great amount of information, including direct sensory cues, but also signals related to the environmental context and internal physiology. How does the brain combine all this information to shape behavioural flexibility? The habenula, an evolutionarily conserved brain structure, has been implicated in encoding stimulus valence, and is considered to influence action selection through its direct impact on neuromodulatory systems. I propose to investigate if and how the habenula impacts behavioural choices, using a combination of behavioural, physiological and genetic approaches in the larval zebrafish. Through this project, I aim to gain a better understanding of the neural and molecular basis of adaptive behaviour. Additionally, as altered habenular physiology is a signature of several brain disorders including depression and addiction, investigation of habenular function should provide novel insights into its role both in health and in disease.