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Persoonlijk profiel



Social interactions are crucial from bacteria to humans as they increase an individual’s chances of survival and reproduction, making sociability -the tendency to engage in group activities- one of the most conserved aspects of life. Although social interactions are fundamental to life and health, we know little about the mechanisms that modulate individual performance in group. To shed light on the function and mechanisms of sociability, we investigate the function of social interactions and mechanisms through which social environmental factors influence behaviour and physiology in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Our two main lines of research are 1) the mechanisms that allow individuals to integrate social and environmental cues to make reproductive decisions and 2) the functional and mechanistic bases of  individual differences in sociability. We seek to answer these questions at the molecular and cellular level, but also investigate how these mechanisms have been shaped by and are influencing the evolution of social interactions and mating systems.

Our choice of Drosophila melanogaster as experimental model is based on the availability of advanced genetic manipulations allowing the study of the function of genes and cells in live behaving individuals. We take a neurogenetics approach characterized by the use of forward, reverse and quantitative genetics to isolate genes that influence social behaviours. We then use these genes as a gateway to the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying social behaviours. For this we use a range of techniques including: molecular genetics, functional and structural neuronal imaging (2-photon microscopy and confocal microscopy), analytical chemistry (Gas chromatography) to study small chemicals acting as social (e.g. pheromones) and environmental (e.g. food) cues, and automated behavioural tracking to study social behaviours in groups.


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