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From Sensation to Action

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

BIOMED Seminar


From Sensation to Action

Vikas Bhandawat, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems
Drexel University

A seemingly simple task, such as walking to one’s favorite coffee shop, involves behaviors that unfold on multiple timescales: On a short timescale (< 1 second), one must move one’s legs on an uneven surface and maintain balance. On a medium timescale (~ few seconds), one must walk relatively straight on a sidewalk. On a longer timescale (~ minutes), one has to follow the street signs to navigate.

My lab takes an integrated approach to understanding how behavior at these multiple timescales arises from the interaction with the brain, the body, and the world. We have homed in on legged locomotion in Drosophila (or fruit flies) as a uniquely appropriate system for studying this problem. The advantage in using Drosophila is that instead of ~1,010 neurons in the mammalian brain, they have just 105 neurons, making them more tractable. Moreover, the powerful genetic toolkit in Drosophila allows us to label, silence, or activate individual neurons, thus enabling us to study the neural basis of locomotion with unparalleled specificity.

My talk today will focus on the behavioral algorithms at each of these different timescales, identifying the neural circuits which execute them, and understanding the neural computations underlying behavior at these different timescales. We will pursue this question in the context of the tiny fruit fly's olfactory system.

Vikas Bhandawat, PhD, is an associate professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems at Drexel University. He heads the Bhandawat Laboratory, where as principal investigator, he and his research team study how animal behavior emerges from the complex interaction amongst the animal's nervous systems, their muscle-body dynamics, and their environment.

Dr. Bhandawat received his BS and MS in chemistry (integrated BS and MS) from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India in 1998. He received his PhD in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2005 (Thesis: Elementary Events Underlying Olfactory Transduction).

Dr. Bhandawat was a postdoctoral scholar under Professor Rachel Wilson at the Harvard Medical School from 2005-2009, and he was an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences at Duke University from 2010-2019. Dr. Bhandawat's research interests lie in the areas of sensorimotor integration, whole-cell patch clamp and imaging in behaving animals, optogenetics, neuromechanics, and locomotion, among others.

Contact Information

Lisa Williams

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