Complexity without all the complications: the fruit fly circadian clock as a gateway towards quantitative understanding of complex behavior
March 19, 2012 - 11:00am
In the natural world, complex behaviors such as learning, aggression and sleep are regulated by interconnected networks of genes and their products. Owing to their nontrivial topology and large number of components, most of these networks are poorly understood and consequently, our knowledge of how diverse behaviors arise remains limited. In this talk, I will argue that the fruit fly circadian clock, a genetic circuit that signals to and modulates several key behavioral networks, is an ideal system with which to dissect the fundamental principles that govern organismal behavior. I will discuss recent results from experimental studies at the transcriptional and post-translational levels of the fly clock as well as simple mathematical models aimed at understanding fruit fly locomotion. The talk will end with an outline of future studies using the fly that will provide novel mechanistic insights into how complex behavior emerges from simple molecular events.