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2021 Allen Distinguished Investigator award

The Allen Distinguished Investigator program provides three-year grants between $1M and $1.5M to individuals and teams

Identifying the circuit mechanisms of jumping in Scaptodrosophila larvae

How do new behaviors arise over evolution? Lucia Prieto-Godino and Samuel Rodriques are leading a project to understand the evolutionary changes in fruit fly brains that enabled a new instinctual behavior in one species of fruit fly known as Scaptodrosophila latifasciaeformis — unlike other fruit fly young, Scaptodrosophila larvae get around by jumping in addition to crawling. The scientists plan to map the neurons and their connections involved in motion in the larvae using a newly developed method known as optical connectomics to map connections between neurons at a much larger scale than is possible with traditional techniques. The researchers will compare the Scaptodrosophila motor neurons and circuits to those of the commonly studied fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to better understand whether the jumping behavior evolved due to changes in the types of neurons, their connections, or both.

Lucia Godino Headshot

Lucia Prieto-Godino, Ph.D.

Francis Crick Institute
Sam Rodriques headshot

Sam Rodriques, Ph.D.

Francis Crick Institute
Josef Penninger headshot

Josef Penninger, Ph.D.

University of British Columbia

This project is part of the 2021 Neural Circuit Design cohort

Researchers in the Neural Circuit Design cohort are studying evolutionary principles in the brain circuits that control movement, focusing on animals and systems that are not traditionally studied in the laboratory. Their studies will flesh out a more complete picture of the diversity of nervous systems and motor neural circuits in the animal kingdom, as well as pinpointing common and conserved principles of motion and motor control.