Julie H. Simpson

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, UC Santa Barbara

Command, Connect, Clean: Mapping neural circuits for fly grooming as a model motor sequence

2:00 pm, Wednesday 01 May 2024

Location: Florence Buchanan Lecture Theatre, Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics

Abstract:  How the nervous system coordinates complex behaviors remains a puzzle. Grooming behavior in the fruit fly Drosophila is a sequence composed of leg movements targeted to clean different body parts. Grooming is initiated by sensory cues and executed by motor circuits. There is an anterior to posterior progression based on a suppression hierarchy.  The wealth of genetic tools and anatomical resources make this behavior a powerful experimental model system to explore how innate, rhythmic, but flexible sequences are controlled by neural architecture we may share. I will present new work from my lab at UCSB starting from command-like neurons to uncover principles that organize this behavior as well as the circuits that implement them. I will briefly explain how forays into the connectome motivate my UK sabbatical project to design new genetic reagents to access neurons of interest.


Bio:  Julie H. Simpson received an AB from Princeton in Molecular Biology with research experience in fruit fly eye development. After a year of rice viral genetics in Costa Rica, she obtained a PhD at UC Berkeley in axon guidance at the fly embryonic midline. After a post-doc at University of Wisconsin, Madison, studying temperature sensitive ion channels and screening for neurons affecting fly motor control, she was one of the early Group Leaders at the HHMI Janelia Research Campus. Her research group used the new tools for targeting and manipulating neuronal activity with temperature and light to map circuits governing a range of behaviors. She joined UC Santa Barbara in 2015, where her lab performs genetic screens for neurons and circuits that govern fly grooming behavior.