To mate or to flee: neural mechanisms underlying action-selection

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences

Abstract

Life demands that we make innumerable decisions on a daily basis. For instance, we are often exposed to conflicting situations where we must prioritise one goal over another. Such decisions can affect our everyday life and, collectively, influence how our society evolves. Furthermore, action-selection processes are impaired in neurological disorders, such as addiction, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. How does the brain evaluate the available options and select the most appropriate action for each situation? We know that cues conveying information from the outside world must be constantly assessed and used in combination with internal needs to guide appropriate behavioural choices. However, the neural processes leading to this internal evaluation remain unknown.

Understanding how different neurons contribute to optimal action-selection will help us advance our knowledge of how the brain works, and what goes wrong in disease. The complexity of the mammalian brain has made it difficult to fully understand the neural circuits of action-selection. However, we can take advantage of organisms with smaller brains that must also deal with behavioural conflicts on a daily basis. In particular, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster offers a great opportunity to investigate the neural mechanisms of action-selection. Thanks to sophisticated tools available in the fruit fly, we can interrupt specific genes, as well as visualise and manipulate individual neurons with great resolution. With these tools, we can study how the fly brain responds when there are conflicting options available, and how it chooses amongst them. For instance, how does a fruit fly choose between courting a mate or escaping a predator? Where and how is this conflicting information evaluated in the brain to drive an appropriate action?

Using a novel behavioural assay in the fruit fly, we aim to identify neurons in the brain that allow the animal to choose between courting and escaping a threat, investigate how these neurons are connected with each other, and how they work together to select an action.

By studying how the brain selects actions at a cellular and neural circuit level, in an accessible experimental system, we aim to reveal fundamental mechanisms underlying action-selection that might be common to all animal species. This knowledge, in turn, can be exploited to better understand the complex inner workings of our own brain in health and disease.

Technical Summary

How the brain resolves conflicting situations is a fascinating question that remains unanswered. We do not know yet how alternative options are represented in the brain, how specific actions get prioritised, and how these processes are affected in neuropathologies, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. I have created an assay in which Drosophila males are presented with visual threats during courtship, which creates a conflict between reproduction and survival. Capitalising on refined genetic tools, this assay offers a great opportunity to study the neural mechanisms that govern the selection between competing options. Preliminary data shows that P1 cells are strong candidates mediating the choice between courting and escaping a threat. We will carry out a targeted behavioural screen to identify the inputs to this neural population. From an in silico screen of 3500 Gal4 fly lines targeting defined cells, I have selected 40 lines based on their potential connectivity with P1 cells. Using optogenetics, we will identify cells that, when activated or silenced with light pulses, prevent males from blocking courtship in response to the threat. We will also test 40 Gal4s that label neuromodulatory cells likely interacting with P1 cells. Next, we will ask if candidate cells respond to the threat in live imaging studies using Ca2+ indicators, and test if they are linked with the courtship circuitry using pre and post-synaptic markers and sybGRASP (to test potential synaptic connections). To probe if candidate neurons are functionally linked, we will optogenetically manipulate the activity of upstream cells, and monitor the responses in downstream cells with Ca2+ imaging. This will allow us to build a map of the neural network of action-selection. Finally, we will test how external factors and internal state variables modulate action-selection. This study will provide insights into fundamental brain processes that may work in other animals, including humans.

Planned Impact

Selecting the most appropriate action under conflicting circumstances is essential for an individual's fitness and survival. The mechanisms underlying evaluation and appropriate action-selection in the brain remain unknown. Our research in the genetically tractable organism Drosophila seeks to understand the mechanisms that govern the selection between competing options. This research will help us better understand fundamental brain mechanisms that might be present across species, including humans.

How might individuals, organisations or society benefit from this research?

Scientific community: Fruit fly research has greatly contributed to the field of neuroscience, allowing breakthrough discoveries in nervous system development and function. In particular, Drosophila has emerged as both an interesting and tractable model to study brain computational tasks. This is due to the availability of sophisticated genetic tools that permit precise manipulation of neural activity in the fruit fly, a numerically reduced nervous system of ~100,000 neurons (compared to ~1000x as many in mice), and the design of methods to quantitatively characterise complex behaviours. Given that different animal species might share basic mechanisms for dealing with behavioural choices, this research is likely to lead to discoveries that will not only impact invertebrate neuroscience but will also guide research efforts in vertebrate models.

The BBSRC will benefit from the creation of internationally competitive research in neurobiology; this project addresses questions that are important globally, such as how the brain optimises action-selection. Working with Drosophila means less use of vertebrate models, saving on housing and husbandry costs as well as ethical considerations. This has long been a goal of the UK Research Councils and of society at large and falls under the aims of the 3Rs programme: replacement, reduction and refinement.

The society will benefit from new knowledge and scientific advancement resulting from this project. Although this project is in basic biology, it will result in discoveries that might have important longer-term implications for understanding the brain, and treatment of diseases of the nervous system, such as addiction and neurological disorders (e.g., Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease). In addition, studies that contribute to our knowledge of reproductive behaviours in Drosophila are particularly important to other dipteran insects of medical importance, for instance, mosquitoes. Discoveries generated on mechanisms of mating suppression in the fruit fly might help the development of new or more effective ways of controlling insect pests or disease vectors. The society will also benefit from the creation of highly skilled researchers as a result of training in this project.

Students, research staff and general public: We will communicate how and why we use model organisms to study basic mechanisms that might be common to all animal species. This proposal will generate exciting experimental paradigms for teaching school children and undergraduates alike. The general public will benefit by attending our annual public research events at the University of Birmingham. We will advertise our work via our lab webpage, social media, and the University's website. We will work alongside the University Press Office to facilitate media publicity. Our findings will be disseminated in presentations at conferences and research articles in Open Access journals. Staff employed to work on this project will receive scientific training in many specialist techniques. In addition, we will offer internships for international visitors, College and undergraduate summer students, enabling them to get training in several laboratory techniques.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Every day, animals engage in numerous daily activities such as feeding, mating or fighting for resources. Adequately selecting the right action in a timely way is critical for survival and reproduction; running away from a threat might be a life-saving decision yet if done unnecessarily will result in missed opportunities. How each individual prioritises one behaviour at a given time over others remains an open question. We know that cues conveying external information (e.g., threats from other animals, access to food) and internal state (e.g., fear, hunger) need to be constantly assessed and used in combination with internal states to guide appropriate behavioural choices. However, the neural processes leading to this internal evaluation remains unknown.

We have developed a paradigm to study how the fruit fly brain chooses between competing options. In this assay, Drosophila males are presented with a threat that mimics the presence of a predator and a courtship target, which potentially creates a conflict between reproduction and survival. How does a fly select the option of courtship over escape? Where and how this conflicting information is represented and evaluated in the brain to drive an appropriate action? Capitalising on refined genetic tools, we are identifying neurons and studying the mechanisms underlying this action-selection. For example, we have identified a group of serotoninergic neurons and courtship-command neurons (P1) that are important mediators in the behavioural choice. In addition, we are characterising visual neurons that might convey the threat signal to decision making neurons in the brain. We aim to unravel fundamental principles underlying behavioural choices that might be conserved among the species.

This funding has additionally allowed us to establish a competitive assay to test how fruit flies choose between feeding and mating. This manuscript is under revision in Current Biology.

In this work, we describe how feeding and mating behaviors compete for expression in the fly nervous system, and how context influences this process. We discover a novel neural mechanism through which flies balance and prioritize the competing need to feed and mate, by integrating information of nutrient availability and their internal motivational
states.

The highlights of our manuscript include the following findings:

1. Drosophila behavioral prioritization involves a plastic mechanism that depends on internal and external context. Flies prioritize feeding over courtship when deprived of both food and a mate. However, this preference is altered by the fly's internal states of hunger and sexual drive, as well as by the nutritious value of the available food.

2. The tyramine signaling pathway controls the trade-off between feeding and mating: nutritional state regulates tyramine biosynthesis. Elevated tyramine simultaneously inhibits feeding-promoting neurons (TyrRPLP) and activates courtship-command neurons (P1), to favor courtship over feeding in fed flies.

3. Resource availability is an essential feature of behavioral prioritization. Starved males only suppress courtship when the available food is nutritious. Food detection activates feeding TyrRPLP neurons and inhibits courtship P1 neurons to sustain feeding in starved flies.

4. Live calcium imaging shows that TyrRPLP are activated and P1 inhibited in hungry flies exposed to high-quality food. Together, our results indicate that TyrRPLP and P1 neurons integrate hunger state and nutrient availability to prioritize behaviors.

We believe this work represents a significant advancement in the field of neuroscience and will be of general interest to both experimental and theoretical neuroscientists interested in the mechanisms of decision-making and action selection.
Exploitation Route Studying the mechanisms underlying evaluation and proper action-selection in mammalian experimental systems can be challenging, given the complexity and high number of neurons of the brain. The fruit fly Drosophila has emerged as both an interesting and tractable model to study complex computational tasks due to the availability of sophisticated genetic tools that permit precise manipulation of neural activity, a numerically reduced nervous system of ~100,000 neurons (compared to ~1000x as many in mice), and
the design of methods to quantitatively characterise complex behaviours. Thanks to extensive openly accessible collections of genetic tools, single neurons can be visualised and manipulated in fruit flies, and specific genes disrupted in a chosen tissue and time period: this gives direct experimental access to the system with a level of temporal, spatial
and genetic precision that is not available in any other model organism. Moreover, working with Drosophila means less use of vertebrate models, saving on housing and husbandry costs as well as ethical considerations. Given that different animal species might share basic mechanisms for dealing with behavioural choices, this research is likely to lead to discoveries that will not only impact invertebrate neuroscience but will also guide research efforts in vertebrate models.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Other

 
Description Early Career Academics Breakfast Meeting with Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Vice-Chancellor and Principal- University of Birmingham-
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Focus Group composed of Early research academics, Senior Planning Officer and 'People and Organisational Development' Consultant at Birmingham University
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Round table at the Institute for Global Innovation and Institute of Advanced Studies- University of Birmingham-
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Darwin Studentship
Amount £63,400 (GBP)
Organisation The Charles Darwin Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2023
 
Description Neural Mechanisms of Action-Selection During Sensory Conflict
Amount € 212,933 (EUR)
Funding ID H2020-MSCA-IF-Project ID 101023536 
Organisation Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Global
Start 09/2022 
End 10/2024
 
Description Project title to be confirmed on completion of the training period.
Amount £60,036 (GBP)
Funding ID 2266977 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 09/2023
 
Description Building up motivation - neural basis of how motivation is encoded in the brain 
Organisation Bar-Ilan University
Department The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences
Country Israel 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Rationale Motivation is an internal state that drives goal directed behaviours like eating when we are hungry and drinking when we are thirsty. Satisfying these drives is essential for survival. However, the role of motivation is not only to drive these behaviours but also to match the extent of these actions to the physiological needs. It Is therefore not surprising that neuronal circuits that process motivation are impaired in addictions, eating disorders, and mood syndromes. Despite its relevance to medicine, we do not know exactly how motivations are generated in the brain. Crucially, how do motivational drives accumulate over time; for example, during increasing periods of hunger? Project Description In collaboration with Prof. Shohat-Ophir (Bar Ilan University, Israel), we aim to test a provocative hypothesis around the build-up of motivation. We propose that gradual increase in motivational drive is represented by accumulation of certain prion-like proteins within neuronal circuits that process motivation. This biochemical accumulation corresponds to a build up in drive that is translated to gradual behavioural responses. Once the need is fulfilled (e.g feeding in response to being hungry) this protein aggregate is degraded, resetting the drive and allowing for a new build up of motivation. To test this idea, we will take advantage of the numerical simplicity and genetic tractability of the Drosophila fly brain. We will manipulate prion-like protein function in genetically defined neurons as an entry point into the mechanisms underlying the gradual build up in motivational drives. Objectives: This is a highly ambitious project that will include both candidate based approach and unbiased approaches. We will use this funding to generate preliminary data to establish a functional link between the prion-like protein Orb2 and accumulation of drive. This will include the following aims: 1. Identify a correlation between accumulation of drives (hunger, thirst) and the accumulation of the prion-like protein Orb2 in circuits that process motivation. 2. Establish a functional link between aggregation of Orb2 and behavioral responses to different levels of motivational drives. The Shohat-Ophir lab will focus on aim 1 and analyze the state of Orb2 (monomeric vs. oligomeric) in brain tissues of flies exposed to increasing starvation and thirst periods using western blot analysis and confocal imaging. The Rezaval lab will focus on aim 2 and analyze the effects of state of Orb2 (monomeric vs. oligomeric) in behaviours controlled by motivation, including feeding and drinking behaviours. By linking molecular events with motivational states in the fly brain, we aim to provide a neurobiological framework of the build-up of motivation. Understanding mechanisms that process motivation might in turn inform treatments against neurological conditions, such as addiction, eating disorders, schizophrenia and autism.
Collaborator Contribution Rationale Motivation is an internal state that drives goal directed behaviours like eating when we are hungry and drinking when we are thirsty. Satisfying these drives is essential for survival. However, the role of motivation is not only to drive these behaviours but also to match the extent of these actions to the physiological needs. It Is therefore not surprising that neuronal circuits that process motivation are impaired in addictions, eating disorders, and mood syndromes. Despite its relevance to medicine, we do not know exactly how motivations are generated in the brain. Crucially, how do motivational drives accumulate over time; for example, during increasing periods of hunger? Project Description In collaboration with Prof. Shohat-Ophir (Bar Ilan University, Israel), we aim to test a provocative hypothesis around the build-up of motivation. We propose that gradual increase in motivational drive is represented by accumulation of certain prion-like proteins within neuronal circuits that process motivation. This biochemical accumulation corresponds to a build up in drive that is translated to gradual behavioural responses. Once the need is fulfilled (e.g feeding in response to being hungry) this protein aggregate is degraded, resetting the drive and allowing for a new build up of motivation. To test this idea, we will take advantage of the numerical simplicity and genetic tractability of the Drosophila fly brain. We will manipulate prion-like protein function in genetically defined neurons as an entry point into the mechanisms underlying the gradual build up in motivational drives. Objectives: This is a highly ambitious project that will include both candidate based approach and unbiased approaches. We will use this funding to generate preliminary data to establish a functional link between the prion-like protein Orb2 and accumulation of drive. This will include the following aims: 1. Identify a correlation between accumulation of drives (hunger, thirst) and the accumulation of the prion-like protein Orb2 in circuits that process motivation. 2. Establish a functional link between aggregation of Orb2 and behavioral responses to different levels of motivational drives. The Shohat-Ophir lab will focus on aim 1 and analyze the state of Orb2 (monomeric vs. oligomeric) in brain tissues of flies exposed to increasing starvation and thirst periods using western blot analysis and confocal imaging. The Rezaval lab will focus on aim 2 and analyze the effects of state of Orb2 (monomeric vs. oligomeric) in behaviours controlled by motivation, including feeding and drinking behaviours. By linking molecular events with motivational states in the fly brain, we aim to provide a neurobiological framework of the build-up of motivation. Understanding mechanisms that process motivation might in turn inform treatments against neurological conditions, such as addiction, eating disorders, schizophrenia and autism.
Impact We have applied for Biosciences pump priming funding (School of Biosciences, Birmingham University).
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration with Dr Andrew Lin_ University of Sheffield 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Mate choice is an essential behavioural process with profound consequences in evolution. How do animals choose with whom to mate? How do they evaluate the features of a potential mate to maximise their reproductive success? We're studying how pathogens in?uence mate choice decisions, especially the neural mechanisms underlying the decision-making process.
Collaborator Contribution We have established a collaboration with Dr Andrew Lin to study how infection-related information is processed and integrated in the brain to modulate mating decisions in live imaging experiments. These studies will contribute to an emerging research field that brings together immune system with neuroscience.
Impact not yet
Start Year 2020
 
Description Collaboration with Dr Andrew Lin_ University of Sheffield 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Mate choice is an essential behavioural process with profound consequences in evolution. How do animals choose with whom to mate? How do they evaluate the features of a potential mate to maximise their reproductive success? We're studying how pathogens in?uence mate choice decisions, especially the neural mechanisms underlying the decision-making process.
Collaborator Contribution We have established a collaboration with Dr Andrew Lin to study how infection-related information is processed and integrated in the brain to modulate mating decisions in live imaging experiments. These studies will contribute to an emerging research field that brings together immune system with neuroscience.
Impact not yet
Start Year 2020
 
Description Collaboration with Julia Cordero- University of Glasgow 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have established a collaboration to explore the gut-brain axis in Drosophila. The adult intestine is an organ with vital physiological, endocrine, immune and metabolic roles. Importantly, the gastrointestinal tract communicates bi-directionally with the CNS through the gut-brain axis, which involves the central and enteric nervous system and endocrine and immune gut functions. In addition to their brain expression, neuroendocrine peptides are enriched in enteroendocrine (ee) cells of the adult fly midgut. Enteroendocrine cells are currently receiving great attention in mammalian intestinal research, due to their greater than expected diversity, plasticity and sensing functions. Neuroendocrine peptides, such as the ones produced by Drosophila ee cells, signal by binding to G protein-coupled receptors, which are mainly expressed in CNS neurons, enteric neurons and/or central circadian peacemaker neurons known to innervate the adult fly midgut. The role of the ee-derived neuroendocrine peptides is largely unknown. Burs from ee cells has been recently shown to mediate gut-to-brain signalling during regulation of systemic metabolic homeostasis. There is evidence that dLgr2 is expressed in the upper uterus and spermathecae in females. This suggests that the Bursicon a/DLgr2 signaling pathway could regulate both egg production and fertilization -via controlling sperm release -. Therefore, Bursicon a/DLgr2(Rk) signaling pathway might allow females to adjust their investment in reproduction according to their nutritional/energy status. Our preliminary data show that downregulation of both Rk and Burs in neurons and ee, respectively, seems to affect some aspects of courtship and mating.
Collaborator Contribution The lab of Julia Cordero uses state-of-the-art microscopy, genetic techniques, lineage tracing analysis, tissue culture and gene expression profiling. They combine work on the Drosophila midgut and the mammalian intestine to understand how cell autonomous and niche-derived signals integrate to regulate stem cell proliferation in response to damage as well as tumourigenesis of adult self-renewing tissues. They have developed useful tools that will allow us to study the effects of the Bursicon a/DLgr2 signaling pathway in courtship/mating behaviours in Drosophila.
Impact not yet
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with Marta Moita, Champalimaud Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal 
Organisation Champalimaud Foundation
Department Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown
Country Portugal 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In the context of this grant, we are identifying neurons involved in the choice between survival and reproduction in Drosophila. We're currently dissecting the neural mechanisms underlying this action-selection.
Collaborator Contribution We have established a collaboration with Dr Marta Moita to use state of the art technology to deliver a threat in our behavioural paradigm. My post doc spent 10 days in Dr Moita's lab to learn how to use their software and behavioural set up and we're now setting it up here.
Impact not yet
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with Prof. Scott Waddell, University of Oxford 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Oxford Hub
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have established a collaboration with Professor Scott Waddell (Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University of Oxford), who is a world leading expert on learning and memory in Drosophila to deliver some of the aims of my BBSRC research grant. In my lab, we have established several paradigms to study the neural mechanisms underlying action-selection in the brain. We're currently identifying neurons involved in the choice between conflicting options.
Collaborator Contribution More refined studies using multiphoton imaging will be done in collaboration with Prof. Waddell at the University of Oxford. His group has a fully established two-photon setup, which is routinely used to record neural activity in behaving flies. He is currently supporting our research by providing training, advice and resources for live imaging experiments. Combining these experiments with our established expertise in behavioural neurogenetics will prove critical to understand the neuronal mechanisms that allow the fly to choose between competing behavioural options.
Impact 1-Neural mechanisms underlying action-selection. Invited Speaker at EDRC. September, 2019. Sheriyamkunnel, S, Jacob, PJ, Winstanley, Waddell, S and Rezával, C. 2-The tyramine signaling pathway mediates the choice between feeding and sexual behavior in Drosophila. Cheriyamkunnel, S, Jacob, PJ, Winstanley, M, Blackburn, L, Moorse, J, Waddell, S and Rezával, C. Neural mechanisms underlying action-selection (manuscript in preparation).
Start Year 2019
 
Description UK-Israel Science Lectureship Scheme 
Organisation Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Country Israel 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This lectureship project enabled the development of a scientific network between two major universities in Britain and UK (University of Birmingham -UoB- and HUJI), providing invaluable benefits at several levels. It created a joint research project between Rezaval and Heifetz in the area of reproductive ageing, and a plan for collecting crucial pilot data for a grant application. In addition, this visit allowed students from the department of Entomology at HUJI, Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University to get exposed to exciting research on behavioural neuroscience that is conducted in the UK, and learn about PhD and post-doctoral opportunities abroad. This will facilitate exchanges of students and post-doctoral researchers between the research groups. Also, Rezaval exchanged ideas, resources and knowledge with academics at Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University and Weizmann Institute, which will lead to new collaborations between Israel and UK, which will be competitive in securing funding.
Collaborator Contribution The scientific visit of Dr Rezaval to Israel was very successful. Rezaval stayed on Rehovot Campus, The Hebrew University of Israel (HUJI), which allowed her to work closely with Heifetz to achieve the aims of this Lectureship scheme. During the visit, Rezaval and Heifetz established a groundwork for a scientific collaboration on reproductive ageing. They analysed preliminary data collected by the Heifetz's lab (e.g., they identified candidate genes underlying reproductive senescence using Heifetz's microarray data), and discussed ideas and relevant literature on reproductive ageing. This resulted in the delineation of the aims of a collaborative research grant proposal: 'reproductive microbiome: linking spatial organisation to fertility function and senescence'. They discussed future steps and plans for further analysis and preliminary data collection, as well as funding options and application deadlines. In addition, Rezaval had the opportunity to meet PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty members in the Department of Entomology, HUJI (e.g., Jonathan D. Bohbot and Philippos Papathanos). Rezaval held individual meetings with members of Heifetz lab and provided them with an expert overview and consultation on their projects. She also shared some techniques for dissecting neural function with them. Also, Rezaval acquired knowledge from the Heifetz lab on the female reproductive system, ageing and microbiome. Finally, Heifetz and Rezaval exchanged fly strains, protocols and technical knowledge to generate further preliminary data for the grant. Rezaval gave talks at Tel Aviv University, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University. This allowed her to exchanged ideas and knowledge with experts in neural physiology and fly behaviour. Such scientific visits set up a platform for a scientific partnership with Shiko Parnas (Tel Aviv University), who will assist Rezaval with electrophysiology, and Galit Shohat-Ophir (Bar Ilan University), who will help Rezaval with automated behavioural methods. Rezaval also visited the Weizmann Institute and met with the group leaders: Oren Schuldiner and Meital Oren, who invited her to give a seminar in their institute in the near future. During this visit, Rezaval also experienced the exquisite Israeli cuisine and visit beautiful places in Israel (e.g. Valley of Elah), as she took part of the annual lab activity organised by Heifetz.
Impact This collaboration is expected to result in joint papers submitted to high quality journals; the collaborators and relevant members of their research groups will be co-authors on these papers. These efforts will result in the generation of cutting-edge research for future grant applications, providing a framework for collaboration between HUJI and UoB in the field of reproductive ageing. The shared scientific interests of both research groups set an ideal platform for the development of a successful partnership which will be competitive in securing funding and developing research avenues that will result in valuable insights in reproductive ageing.
Start Year 2019
 
Description International Brain Awareness Week: a Public Engagement event celebrated worldwide 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 2021 Brain Awareness Week takes place 15th-21st March
The Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description 'International Brain Awareness Week: a Public Engagement event celebrated worldwide' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We celebrate the international Brain Awareness Week: a Public Engagement event celebrated worldwide, to raise public awareness of the importance of brain research.

Ever wondered how the brain works? Or how we can prevent or treat brain injuries? On Saturday 21 March, experts from The University of Birmingham will be at the Midlands Arts Centre for a day of discussions, talks, screenings and activities uncovering the mysteries of the brain. The event includes a special screening on the 2015 movie Concussion.

PROGRAMME -

10am - 5pm - hands-on activities with experts from School of Psychology, Medical School and School of Biosciences

1 pm - 3 pm - Screening 'Concussion' (2015)

3 pm - 4 pm - discussion panel and Q&A on sport-related concussions

4 pm - 5 pm - Talks from leading brain research experts. Victoria Wykes will be discussing neuro-oncology, Carolina Rezaval will talk about decision-making in flies, and Pia Rotshtein will be discussing education and aging.

All activities and events are FREE to attend.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/university/colleges/les/events/2020/Mysteries-of-the-Brain.aspx
 
Description Commentary for The Scientist magazine: news article about a paper published by Thomas Preat et al on how sperm affects the long term memory of female fruit flies. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As an expert in the field, I was asked to contribuite to a news article published in The Scientist magazine about a paper that came out in Science Advances by Thomas Preat et al on how sperm affects the long term memory of female fruit flies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/sex-promotes-lasting-memories-in-female-flies-66763
 
Description Lab Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I have created a lab webpage where we advertise our work and promote our outreach activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://www.rezavallab.org/
 
Description Open School Outreach Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We communicated Drosophila brain research to students and parents, which which sparked questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/undergraduate/visit/opendays/index.aspx
 
Description Taster lecture for prospective university students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The lecture was delivered to a live audience of about 45 students, attending via the videoconference platform Zoom. Using compelling imagery, short videos of fly behaviour, and graphical representations of the fly brain that highlighted the distribution of the neurons of interest in the brain, I established an intuitive link between biological features at cellular level and behaviour observable with the bare eye. Because I identified and explained mating behaviours of male flies first, the audience could discern independently and directly the surprising behavioural consequence of overstimulation of particular neurons in the female brain.

The imagery and the combination of video demonstration with explanation of underlying cell biology was particularly effective. Even the relatively simple fly brain is a very complex organ. What the talk (and the Q&A) achieved was to demonstrate technical capability of fly brain research (from the genetic level to macroscopic manipulation of flies), and the fundamental nature of the question that are as yet unanswered. The talks most effective feature was to demonstrate that an intuitive a priori hypothesis can lead to a wholly counterintuitive experimental outcome. The counterintuitive experimental outcome in particular seemed to stimulate the audience's imagination and probably played a key role in keeping the conversation going. Directed at an audience of prospective students, the concept of the session was to introduce to an area of active scientific research, and to illustrate scientific discussion between academic colleagues. Moreover, it gave an opportunity to pre-university students - used engagingly - to participate in the discussion, and to experience how their questions shaped the direction of the discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An evening of science, art, education and entertainment! The Drosophila Labs explain how we use fruit flies to understand brain function and disease over a beer @Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/thinktank/whats-on/thinktank-lates-with-the-university-of-birmi...
 
Description science twitter account 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I disseminate our research findings and interesting scientific stories through my Twitter account.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://twitter.com/crezaval