Maintaining effective sensory coding in the face of inter-neuronal variation

Biography

I am currently working in Dr Lin’s lab at The University of Sheffield. I did my undergraduate neuroscience degree at The University of Leeds. My year in industry within a lab at Leeds encouraged me to do a PhD as I enjoyed doing research and wanted to continue. My project the electrophysiology of fruit flies as I wanted to remain within neuroscience research.

My Project

The project aims to determine how Kenyon cells of the Drosophila melanogaster are able to produce consistent activity for encoding information, especially with inter-neuronal variability. Kenyon cells (KCs) are the third order olfactory neuron that form distinct associative memories for odours. Olfactory associative memories determine whether a Drosophila approaches or avoids a learnt odour. KCs use ‘sparse coding’ so that one odour is decorrelated from another. To do this accurately Kenyon cells should be of similar excitability. This is because if some Kenyon cells were more excitable than others, then these cells would become dominate for particular odours which would disrupt memory formation. However, KCs do have a high variability as they can have a different number of inputs, ranging from 2-11. Therefore, it is not understood how sparse coding can occur with such variation and the project aims to uncover this.