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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cellular bases of behavioral plasticity: establishing and modifying synaptic circuits in the Drosophila genetic system.

  • Author(s): Rohrbough, Jeffrey
  • O'Dowd, Diane K
  • Baines, Richard A
  • Broadie, Kendal
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

Genetic malleability and amenability to behavioral assays make Drosophila an attractive model for dissecting the molecular mechanisms of complex behaviors, such as learning and memory. At a cellular level, Drosophila has contributed a wealth of information on the mechanisms regulating membrane excitability and synapse formation, function, and plasticity. Until recently, however, these studies have relied almost exclusively on analyses of the peripheral neuromuscular junction, with a smaller body of work on neurons grown in primary culture. These experimental systems are, by themselves, clearly inadequate for assessing neuronal function at the many levels necessary for an understanding of behavioral regulation. The pressing need is for access to physiologically relevant neuronal circuits as they develop and are modified throughout life. In the past few years, progress has been made in developing experimental approaches to examine functional properties of identified populations of Drosophila central neurons, both in cell culture and in vivo. This review focuses on these exciting developments, which promise to rapidly expand the frontiers of functional cellular neurobiology studies in Drosophila. We discuss here the technical advances that have begun to reveal the excitability and synaptic transmission properties of central neurons in flies, and discuss how these studies promise to substantially increase our understanding of neuronal mechanisms underlying behavioral plasticity.

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