The neural approaches used in neuroethology are as diverse as the field of neuroscience itself. - Carl Hopkins
In the Gray lab we are interested in discovering general principles of how nervous systems produce and control complex adaptive behaviours. We use a virtual reality flight simulator in conjunction with state of the art multineuronal recording techniques as well as a free flight wind tunnel to investigate aspects of adaptive insect flight. Click on the links above for a more complete description of the research and the people in the lab.
Head and Associate Professor
Department of Biology
Department of Physiology
Our long-term research goal is to discover general principles of how nervous systems produce and control complex adaptive behaviours. Attaining this goal requires a comprehensive approach to investigating interactions between an animal's external environment and its nervous system. To address this issue I study behavioural and neurophysiological aspects of adaptive insect flight. I use model systems in which there is a strong background of behavioural and physiological knowledge upon which to build. These models include collision avoidance in locusts and odour-guided flight of the hawkmoth, Manduca sexta. My research utilizes newly developed approaches that permit, for the first time, direct correlations between aspects of an insect's environment and flight behaviour as well as ensemble activity within the CNS. These approaches incorporate a virtual reality-based insect flight simulator of my own design in conjunction with state of the art multi-neuronal recording techniques from the insect's CNS. To meet my long-term goal my research addresses three specific objectives.
Our experimental approaches involve standard and high speed video recording as well as electrophysiological recordings from insects during free and tethered flight. These approaches utilize the virtual reality flight simulator and/or a free flight wind tunnel. Video recordings provide data on the insect’s position in space and details of body and wing kinematics. Electrophysiological techniques include extracellular and intracellular recordings from insects able to express some aspect of flight behaviour and provide information on the activity of individual or small populations of neurons. We typically use behavioural and electrophysiological approaches in tandem to address issues of how the nervous system controls behaviour. Analysis techniques that we use include: three dimensional motion analysis of behavioural data, state of the art cluster cutting and advanced correlation methods for multi-unit extracellular data and standard waveform analysis techniques in conjunction with correlation methods for intracellular recordings. Where appropriate, we also use single cell staining techniques to identify individual neurons.