The tools of modern neuroscience are becoming sophisticated enough that a mechanistic description of brain operation is now possible, at least in some cases. This talk will cover the main tools and techniques that are now being used to examine the brains of insects. This include methods for both observing and manipulating neurons in intact and behaving animals, and structural techniques that determining connectivity down to the level of individual neurons and synapses. The second part of the talk will illustrate how these methods have been used to elucidate the operation of the portion of the fly brain that remembers olfactory preferences. This leads to a detailed, circuit level description of how at least one learning process in one animal works.
Lou Scheffer was trained as a EE at Caltech and Stanford. He spent the next 30 years designing both integrated circuits, and the software tools used to design them, at Hewlett Packard and Cadence. In 2008, he switched fields, moving to studying the brain at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. There his research interests include methods to derive the detailed structure of the brain, and using this information to try to figure out how it works. His outside interests include SETI, the search for extraterrestrial life, and science education. He is the author of the usual collection of papers, books, and patents.