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Sophie Seidenbecher: Fruit Fly Foraging Decisions – Towards an understanding of the genetic basis of food search behavior

PhD defence, Monday 24 June 2019, Sophie Seidenbecher

Sophie Seidenbecher

Foraging, or searching for food, is a fundamental behavior exhibited by all moving animals throughout evolution. For that reason it is valid to hypothesize that certain behaviors of foraging and their genetic basis are conserved between different species. In order to lay the foundation for understanding the link between the genes and behavior, Sophie Seidenbecher used quantitative analyses and computational models to describe fruit fly foraging behavior. She used a simple linear track arena under an operant conditioning scheme, where the flies were foraging for optogenetic sugar receptor neuron stimulation, which she could show they find rewarding. She found that a reinforcement learning model was best describing several aspects of the animals’ behavior. Reinforcement learning models are widely used in neuroscience and describe how an agent learns to produce profitable actions, by updating a value of the available actions through a reward prediction error. The flies appear to be using such an update process to decide whether to return to a previously rewarded area in the arena in a way that they forget this value if they didn’t make the choice to return.

This will be the starting point to perform a screen for genes assumed to be involved in foraging-choice and value update behavior and to relate gene knock-down induced behavioral changes to the reinforcement learning model parameters.

The PhD degree was completed at the Danish Research Center for Translational Neuroscience (DANDRITE), Science and Technology, Aarhus University.

This résumé was prepared by the PhD student.

Time: Monday 24 June 2019 at 11.00
Place: Building 1532, room 116, Lecture Theatre G1, Department of Mathematics, Aarhus University
Title of PhD thesis: Sweet Choices – On the Value of Fruit Fly Foraging Decisions
Contact information: Sophie Seidenbecher, e-mail: seidenbecher@dandrite.au.dk, tel.: +45 25734055
Members of the assessment committee:
Professor Emre Yaksi, Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, NTNU, Norway
Professor André Fiala, Institute for Molecular Neurobiology of Behavior, Georg-August University Goettingen, Germany
Professor Finn Skou Pedersen (chair), Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University
Main supervisor:
Professor Duda Kvitsiani, DANDRITE, Aarhus University

Language: The PhD dissertation will be defended in English

The defence is public.
The PhD thesis is available for reading at the Graduate School of Science and Technology/GSST, Ny Munkegade 120, building 1521, 8000 Aarhus C.