FRUIT FLY NEUROANATOMY
HOW MIGHT WE advance our biological understanding of adult fruit fly circuit function underlying complex behaviors through analysis of neuroarchitecture imaged at synaptic resolution?
As a research technician, I worked on a team of three in the Dr. Gerald M. Rubin lab to reconstruct select neurons of interest in the female adult fly (Drosophila melanogaster) brain electron microscopy (EM) dataset which was generated over several years by a large team effort led by Dr. Davi Bock's lab. Please view this video produced by the Bock Lab & covered by National Geographic for a visual summary of this tremendous scientific effort. My tracing efforts were funded by a Wellcome Trust grant.
Please view my publications for a list of my scientific research projects. Some of this work is a part of ongoing experimentation and therefore cannot be shared publicly until point of publication, but I am happy to discuss my contributions more generally if interested.
Our Rubin Lab team of neurobiologists traced neurons and circuits of interest, using our trained eye to label each cell through a dataset comprised of ~7,000 layered electron microscopy images of 40 nm thin female adult fruit fly sections. We were able to compare stereotyped neuroanatomy to well characterized light level microscopy data for verification.
We first identified the pairs of neurons of interest by searching in specific neuropils (brain areas) and looking for identifiable architecture. This allowed us to use the synaptic level detail of these neurons to build associated connections, leading to brain-spanning neural networks.
These novel results identified new regions of connections and informed in vitro experimentation.
In addition to iterating, or optimizing, different methodologies to reconstruct these networks, our team noticed a demand for a stochastic sampling tool within the open source tracing software.
We collected insight and conceptualized the process of random sampling neuron connectivity through a flowchart and interface sketches. This demonstrates the value of user-centered design aiding scientific research: this invention eliminates biased data collection or enables users to spend time more effectively by automating the labor intensive work of randomizing data.
A convergence between olfactory and learning and memory networks in the fruit fly brain identified by my tracing effort led to further analysis and was included as a figure that I designed, viewed at right, which was featured in this eLife article published by Dolan et al. 2019;8:e43079.