Our research addresses how the nervous system is organized to drive sequences of different movements. We study the grooming behavior of fruit flies because it consists of a stereotyped sequence of leg movements that clean the different body parts. The predictability of the movements provides a great behavioral readout for determining how manipulations to different parts of the nervous system change the behavior. Grooming is of general interest because the neural mechanisms that control sequential behavior are implicated in disorders whereby movements become overrepresented (e.g. obsessive-compulsive disorder). Therefore, we also examine how mutations in specific genes can impact grooming circuitry to understand the etiology of grooming-related disorders.

Video of a fruit fly that was coated in dust to induce grooming. The fly performs an abdomen-to-wing grooming sequence.