Collective Behaviour - Summer Seminar Series 2022
Neurogenetics of social affiliation in zebrafish
Dr. Johannes Larsch, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Munich
This event is part of an event series „CASCB Seminar Series Summer 2022“.
Many species live in groups and affiliate with conspecifics upon sensory detection and processing of social information. However, investigating sensory processing during social behavior is inherently difficult because in most cases, the mutual interactions between individuals and the resulting sensory experience are beyond experimental control.
We investigate affiliation pathways in juvenile zebrafish in the context of shoaling, the innate and perpetual drive to swim in groups with continuously moving conspecifics. Using virtual reality psychophysics, we recently identified self-like biological motion as one visual trigger of shoaling. We now use the tools available in zebrafish for genetic screening and unbiased mapping of whole-brain activity and anatomy to reveal the neuronal implementation of shoaling. We traced biological motion into the brain and discovered a specifically tuned tecto-thalamic visual pathway that detects this social signal and drives shoaling. To reveal sources of behavioral individuality and to establish molecular entry points, we examine how natural genetic polymorphisms and a panel of 100 mutations in genes implicated in human neuropsychiatric syndromes affect shoaling and the neuronal processing of social cues. Thus, we can now investigate how individuals coordinate social affiliation at the interface of behavioral algorithms, neuronal circuits, and genetic factors.
Johannes Larsch studied Biology at the University of Konstanz, Germany and The Rockefeller University, NYC, U.S.A. with Prof. Leslie Vosshall and Prof. Giovanni Galizia. He did his PhD in 2014 at The Rockefeller University, NYC, U.S.A. with Prof. Cori Bargmann. In 2015, he joined the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany, as a postdoc, and in 2018 became MPI project leader of his research program investigating how the brain controls swarm behavior.