Animals execute many different behaviors in the course of their lives with the goal of surviving and reproducing; they find food and mates, defend themselves and in many cases care for their offspring or other relatives. When these behaviors involve the interaction with other members of the same species they are considered social interaction. Living in a social environment requires perception of a socially relevant sensory stimulus, representation of this information in the brain, and integration of the stimulus with other relevant cues. Thus, social experiences can induce long-lasting changes in neural circuit function and ultimately altered behavior.
My research interest is to define the principles by which social interactions among individuals produce specific changes in the brain that lead to modification of behavior. In particular I am interested in identifying the molecular signature of social experience within defined subset of neuronal populations. We are exploring this question using reproductive behavior, possibly the most important event in an animal’s life, using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system.