Group leaders : Martin GIURFA & Jean-Marc DEVAUD
The objective of our team is the integrative study of experience-dependent plasticity in insects, with a particular focus on cognitive functions, such as visual and olfactory learning and memory. Three model species (honeybee, bumblebee, Drosophila), for which detailed descriptions of brain anatomy and genome are now available, are used to explore behavioral plasticity in ecologically relevant tasks and to track down their genetic, molecular and neural mechanisms bases. The comparative analysis between species exhibiting various levels of social complexities provides a unique opportunity to consider experience-dependent plasticity in a social context.
Our multidisciplinary approach is poised at the interface between experimental psychology, neurobiology, molecular biology, behavioral genetics and cognitive ecology. We use state-of the-art techniques spanning from behavioral observations of free-flying bees foraging on computer-controlled flowers, to the conditioning of harnessed individuals presented with tightly controlled stimuli, the identification of neural circuits involved in memory formation using transgenes, and the detailed tracking of neurotransmission processes in targeted brain structures.
With this agenda, the team fully adheres to the scientific project federated by the axis Molecular, Cellular and Behavioral Neuroscience of the Center for Integrative Biology of Toulouse.
Bees are major pollinators that suffer from a generalised decline for which scientists have no clear answer. Chances that we may be facing a pollination crisis, in which in which crop yields begin to fall because of inadequate pollination, have serious consequences for food production, biodiversity and therefore human health. Our team alone isn’t going to save the bees, but we are hoping that by studying their brains and behaviour we can help better understand this phenomenon and increase the attention these insects deserve.