The Philipsborn group is interested in how the nervous system generates and controls behaviour, at the level of genes, neurons and neuronal circuits. We use the fruit fly Drosophila with its small and compact nervous system as model organism for basic research in behavioural genetics and circuit neuroscience. Furthermore, we are also collaborating on using Drosophila as a model system for understanding molecular and cellular aspects of neurodegenerative diseases.
Our focus is on motor behaviour, the ultimate output of the nervous system. We are in particular interested in multifunctionality of neuro-muscular systems and mechanisms of motor pattern generation, as well as and higher order organisation of motor behaviour, context dependent action selection and behavioural hierarchy. We aim at uncovering and understanding general mechanisms and principles of nervous system function by investigating small, genetically accessible circuits of identifiable neurons which drive robust and ecologically relevant behaviour. Our main model system is Drosophila reproductive behaviour, courtship and sex-specific communication, which includes a rich set of fascinating innate and experience dependent motor behaviours. Many of the genes and stereotyped neurons underlying sexual behaviour are described, offering an ideal starting point for mechanistic understanding of circuits and their context dependent modulation. We make full use of the state-of-the-art genetic toolkit for observing and probing the Drosophila nervous system at cellular resolution and employ live imaging, anatomical reconstructions, manipulation of neuronal activity and gene expression in combination with behavioural assays.