|Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology Martinsried - MPIN|
Background and previous research experience
Torn between the interests in entities that are alive and those that are not anymore, my rather stochastic choice of biology over history led me to study molecular biology in Bogazici University, Turkey in 2004. An initial acquaintance with and consequent adoration of Drosophila as a neurogenetics model in the laboratory of Dr. Bassem Hassan, VIB, Belgium resulted in a pursuit of master’s degree in 2009 at Sensory Neurogenetics Laboratory of Dr. Arzu Celik Fuss, Bogazici University. With the attempt at the first Drosophila genetic modeling of human diseases in Turkey, I worked on establishing a synergistic tumorigenesis paradigm (Bossuyt et al., 2009). The focus was on a family of genes at the crossroad of metabolism and cellular structure, Salt Inducible Kinases (SIK).
Main areas of interest
Be it inaccurate and yet imaginative ancient maps which reduces the then-known world into just one T and O pattern, or comprehensive and yet uninspired modern maps of depicting countless cities and countries, these projections consumed quite a lot of time of my past. While I was studying molecular biology, signaling diagrams were the cues to the possibility of drawing my own maps. However, the charm of these diagrams eroded quickly in face of the natural beauty of neural maps. Cracking their intricate connectivity and deciphering emergent information processing of this infrastructure soon became the prime objective of mine, the self-proclaimed cartographer. Drosophila genetics is the excellent choice in its employment of both single neuron reductionist and collective manipulations of a group of neurons in a holistic approach. Using flies, my goal is to reproduce functional projections of neural maps, while creating maps which would rival maps of phrenologists in their vividness without forsaking the truthfulness.
Juxtaposition of innate behavior and higher information processes is a unique chance to reproduce modulation of inner states of an organism. Drosophila carries an innate aversion to CO2 present in its environment. On the other hand, as Bräcker et al have been successful to show this avoidance behavior can be modulated in cases of hunger via involvement of the Mushroom Body, the center of higher olfactory information traditionally associated with memory and learning. Using the genetic tools available to the Drosophila community, and expanding if necessary, the project will dissect the intervention of the Mushroom Body in a finer detail with the aim of fully characterize the functional circuitry that controls odor-dependent decision making. The catalogue of interesting neurons will be controlled by genetic tools and examined in the combinatorial odor preference behavioral screens. Functional analyses will cover electrophysiology and in vivo Ca2+ imaging. Both single fly behavior experiments using a custom-made tracking ball set-up and population assays in a realistic, open environment will be utilized.