Event Abstract

The Fly Olympiad: A series of high-throughput, quantitative behavioral experiments in Drosophila neurobiology.

  • 1 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm Research Campus, United States
  • 2 California Institute of Technology, Division of Biology, United States
  • 3 Johannes Gutenberg University, Institute of Zoology, Germany

By leveraging quantitative behavioral assays and modulating the function of targeted neurons in thousands of lines of fruit flies, the Fly Olympiad project is studying how neurons in the brain work to govern behavior. The Fly Olympiad has developed a collection of quantitative and high-throughput primary behavioral assays to screen the GAL4 driver lines developed by the Rubin Lab and imaged by the Fly Light Project Team at Janelia Farm. These GAL4 lines allow for small collections of neurons in the fly brain to be reproducibly targeted with neuronal activators and inactivators. Thus, powerful behavioral experiments are enabled where neurons are acutely and reversibly activated or inactivated to assess the consequences on selective behaviors.

Our primary screens cover a wide range of behaviors relevant to Drosophila including locomotion, vision, coordination, aggression, reproductive success, social interactions, climbing, and an open field observation assay, which will all be discussed in detail. We use genetically encoded temperature sensitive UAS-Shibire to inactivate or UAS-dTrpA1 to activate neurons with known expression patterns and then broadly assess the changes in behavioral readout relative to a known genetic control. Most labs using this behavioral neurogenetic approach focus on a particular behavior or a particular region of the brain. We believe in the power and efficiency of a comparative approach. As we have screened 2,316 lines with some amount of overlapping expression through a wide array of behaviors we have the potential to discover that some well-studied brain regions are involved in the control of novel behaviors as well as to assign functions to anatomical “terra incognita.” Furthermore we hope to generate structure-function maps to determine which parts of the brain are associated with and possibly govern particular behaviors.

In addition to the behavioral assays, we have developed a series of tightly controlled and monitored experimental and rearing conditions, standardized protocols, robust user interfaces, and semi-automated pipelines for rapid data analysis. After analysis, the salient features that most accurately describe the behavioral consequences of neural manipulation get loaded into a large behavioral database. To date we have collected over 80 TB of data, with billions of data points stored in the database. Hit-rates range from less than 0.01% to over 50% depending on the assay. As the initial screen nears completion, we are beginning to mine the data to look for novel associations between expression patterns and behavior. We believe that an organized, controlled screen of this scale will provide powerful insight into basic questions in neuroscience and will be an invaluable resource to the fly community. Our goal is to make the results of the primary screens, the behavioral assay designs and the screening protocols generally available to the scientific community after we have sufficiently validated the data quality. We anticipate completing the initial screen in August 2012, and will make the assay designs and basic characterization of the behaviors available soon after.


We are thankful for the support from Tanya Tabachnik, Magnus Karlsson, Sam Watkins, Chris Werner, Gus Lott, Lowell Umayam, Frank Midgley, Tom Dolafi, Frank Midgley, Rob Svirskas, Charlotte Weaver, and Janelia’s Fly Core (Todd Laverty, James McMahon, Don Hall, Monti Mercer, Karen Hibbard, Dona Fetter, Jui-Chun Kao, Amanda Cavallaro, Grace Zheng, Rodney Simmons, Rose Rogall).

Keywords: Behavior, Drosophila, fly, high-throughput, Neurogenetics, screening, walking behaviors

Conference: Tenth International Congress of Neuroethology, College Park. Maryland USA, United States, 5 Aug - 10 Aug, 2012.

Presentation Type: Poster (but consider for Participant Symposium)

Topic: Sensorimotor Integration

Citation: Korff W, Anderson DJ, Branson K, Card G, Chen N, Hayes S, Hirokawa J, Hoopfer E, Kimmel B, Kladt N, Low S, McKellar C, Phillips M, Reiser MB, Roberts S, Robie A, Rowell W, Rubin G, Simpson JH, Shusterman D, Strauss R and Triphan T (2012). The Fly Olympiad: A series of high-throughput, quantitative behavioral experiments in Drosophila neurobiology.. Conference Abstract: Tenth International Congress of Neuroethology. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnbeh.2012.27.00426

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Received: 03 May 2012; Published Online: 07 Jul 2012.

* Correspondence: Dr. Wyatt Korff, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, VA, 20147, United States, korffw@janelia.hhmi.org