Whole brain neural dynamics and behavior in C. elegans
Dr. Andrew Leifer, Princeton University
How does a nervous system control an animal’s behavior? We are investigating this question by manipulating and monitoring neural activity of populations of neurons in the brain of a simple transparent organism and correlating the observed neural dynamics with behavior. I will present a suite of optical tools to control and record activity in the nematode C. elegans as it moves, including the first instrument to perform whole-brain calcium imaging with cellular resolution in an awake and unrestrained behaving animal. We have used these techniques to gain insight into the underlying neural mechanisms behind mechanosensation, forward locomotion, and the C. elegans escape response. Now we are beginning to expand our investigation to reveal how collective neural dynamics generates any behavior in the C. elegans behavioral repertoire. These measurements are a critical first step towards investigating higher-level functions like the time evolution of internal brain states and decision-making. Lastly I will discuss how these measurements may provide insights into the relation between nervous system structure and neural function.