Time to decide


  • Prof Gero Miesenboeck

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Many behaviours, including movement, navigation, communication and decision making, unfold over time. These behaviours must therefore be based on orderly sequences of nerve cell activity. How the brain generates such sequences is largely unknown. Professor Miesenboeck will explore this fundamental problem in fruit flies, which (like humans and higher animals) take time before committing to a choice. The amount of time taken varies with the difficulty of the decision and is heavily influenced by a small group of approximately 200 nerve cells in the fly’s central brain. These 200 cells are distinguished by the presence of FoxP, a genetic regulator molecule whose human versions are important determinants of cognitive ability. Professor Miesenboeck’s group will study how the activity of the FoxP-containing nerve cells in the fly changes as a decision progresses toward commitment, identify the biophysical principles and neuronal connections that support these evolving activity patterns, and investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which FoxP acts.