Neural mechanisms linking perception to action in zebrafish prey hunting behaviour (360G-Wellcome-204708_Z_16_Z)
The ultimate goal of modern neuroscience is to understand how brain activity generates behaviour. Thus far, mainly because of technical limitations, neuroscientists have been primarily focusing their research on how the activity of single neurons or small populations of neurons encodes the representation of either sensory stimuli or motor programs. However, given the current technological advancements allowing neural recording and manipulations across brain areas, it is now impelling to start tackling this crucial biological question: how do sensory representations trigger the selection and execution of appropriate motor programs? In my proposed project I aim to provide a mechanistic, cellular-level description of how larval zebrafish execute prey hunting routines in response to defined visual stimuli. Using a wide range of cutting-edge techniques, including simultaneous behavioural monitoring while performing calcium imaging/optogenetics, I will dissect the activity dynamics and circuit mechanisms of a key neural network hub in the anterior-ventral optic tectum capable of triggering the characteristic motor output of hunting behaviour. Crucially, I will reveal how this network hub is recruited by sensory neurons and how, in turn, this hub coordinates the activity of premotor neurons in multiple brain areas, therefore shedding new light on how the brain generates actions from perceptions.
£250,000 09 Nov 2016