One of the oldest debates in biology is that of nature versus nurture:
Are our behaviors dictated by genes or by the environment?
In reality, there is a constant flux of information between the brain and the environment, and it is at the interaction of these two that phenotypes turn into outward behaviors. In the last decade it has become clear that “neuroepigenetic” processes function at the junction between nature and nurture. How this happens however, is still a mystery. We do not know in what form environmental information reaches the brain, nor how it interacts with ongoing brain processes to direct behavior.
Over the past year our laboratory has developed several methods and set up collaborations that put us in the unique position to causally dissect the nexus between genes, environment and behavior.
- What is the identity and the role of metabolic-transcriptional pathways in regulating specific behaviors?
- How do they directly modulate neural activity?
- How are they altered by the environment, such as diet, or previous life experiences?
- How are environmental inputs integrated into ongoing cellular physiology?
Tools: behavior, Ca++ imaging, optical recordings, transcriptomics, and metabolomics.