Mario de Bono

Genes, circuits and behaviour

debono@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk
Personal group site

Brains are highly parallel information processors. Their neural circuits continuously integrate sensory inputs to generate appropriate behavioural responses.

We are interested in understanding how neural networks are functionally assembled, how they integrate information, and how they evolve.

C. elegans is a powerful system to study neural circuits. The worm has exactly 302 neurons (compared to ~1011 in us), each of which can be uniquely identified by morphology and position.

The synaptic connections made by each neuron have been reconstructed by electron microscopy, providing a wiring diagram of the neural circuits.

By combining genetic, molecular, and cell biological approaches with electrophysiology and neural imaging techniques we can dissect how these circuits work.

The nematode inhabits soil where it feeds on microorganisms. To forage for food C. elegans integrates multiple sensory cues, including signals from bacteria, other animals, ambient gases such as O2 and CO2, and internal nutritional state.

We are studying the genetic and neural architectures that allow these responses to be integrated together and modified by experience. Different natural isolates exhibit different foraging strategies thereby also providing an opportunity to investigate how behaviour evolves.

A particular focus is on neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are potent regulators of behaviour but their biology is poorly understood. Neural signalling components are well conserved between C. elegans and mammals, so that results from the worm are often applicable to mammals.

Selected Papers

Group Members

  • Changchun Chen
  • Sean Flynn
  • Isabel Beets
  • Giulio Valperga
  • Paula Freire Pritchett
  • Stephen Barratt
  • Alastair Crisp