Collective Behaviour - Summer Seminar Series 2023

Olfactory coding, processing, and modulation in the insect brain

Dr. Silke Sachse, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology


Olfactory coding, processing and modulation in the insect brain

Most animals rely on their olfactory system to accomplish behavioral tasks that guarantee their survival and reproduction. Since the odor space consists of an enormous, nearly infinite number of possible stimuli, olfactory systems require special strategies to perceive, identify and evaluate the highly diverse odor information from the environment. The vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster represents a premier model system for studying olfactory processing mechanisms since it exhibits a stereotyped architecture which is similar to its mammalian counterpart, but is less complex and highly tractable as well as susceptible to genetic manipulations. By exploiting these genetic techniques and linking them to neurophysiological, molecular and behavioral methods, my group is dissecting the neural circuits that are involved in coding, processing and perception of odors. We identified and dissected the neuronal correlates to specific behavioral outputs resulting from the perception of odor mixtures, we demonstrated that the neural composition of every olfactory glomerulus is unique and correlated to its functional relevance, and we were able to show that higher brain centers decode the behavioral value of an odor. We are currently examining whether the olfactory circuitry is hardwired or can be modulated by previous experience. We are also studying the olfactory code in non-model organisms such as sister species of D. melanogaster exploiting different ecological niches as well as the migratory locust. Furthermore, we are interested in multimodal sensory processing and integration. The talk will summarize our recent insights into the coding strategies and plastic components of the olfactory circuitry of insects.

Silke Sachse studies the neuronal basis of olfaction in insects with a special focus on Drosophila melanogaster. By combining neurogenetic tools with advanced techniques, such as in vivo two-photon microscopy, optogenetics, neuronal tracing and reconstructions, as well as a variety of behavioral assays, her group has identified crucial neuronal mechanisms that enable an animal to encode, process and interpret the vast array of odors and to accomplish odor-guided decisions.

Silke Sachse received her PhD in 2002 at the Free University of Berlin (with Giovanni Galizia) which was awarded with the T.I.L.L. Photonics Technology Award for excellence in developing novel techniques in neurosciences. Afterwards she moved to NYC for a postdoc with Leslie Vosshall at Rockefeller University. In 2006 she started as a project group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (MPI-CE) in Jena in the Department of Bill Hansson, before she was recipient of a BMBF grant to establish her own independent junior research group in 2008. After receiving a call for a W2-professorship at the University of Würzburg in 2016 (which she declined), she was promoted to become a tenured Research Group Leader for the independent research group ‘Olfactory Coding’ at the MPI-CE.

Datum: 2023-06-26