Mark Frye


phone:  (310) 825-5360

office:  2014 TLSB


research interests:  Integrative physiology of insect flight.

Research Interests

General introduction How are flexible and robust animal behaviors orchestrated by the nervous system? Different forms of this general question have occupied neuroscientists for decades. Great strides have been made toward describing the elements of nervous system development, structure, and function. Our next challenge is to examine how behavior emerges from the interactions among genetic, cellular, cell-system, and organ-system levels of organization. My laboratory studies these interactions in a powerful model system ? the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Whereas research with Drosophila is most often focused within the molecular-genetic spectrum of modern biology, this animal also shows remarkable behavioral performance, making its living navigating vast distances through complex visual landscapes in search of the source of an attractive odor. A fly?s sophisticated navigation capabilities emerge from the fusion of multiple sensory modalities and transformation of a robust motor code. By combining the rapidly expanding toolkit of fruit fly molecular genetics with state-of-the-art engineering techniques, we hope to reveal the functional mechanisms and structural circuits with which the fly brain coordinates the biomechanics and dynamics of complex behavior. The results of this cross-disciplinary approach could have broad impact on our understanding of the general principles of sensory fusion and sensory-motor integration common among animal taxa, and also motivate specialized technical advances in bio-inspired robotic devices. Sensory fusion and sensorimotor integration in Drosophila Whereas visual motion processing and olfactory discrimination have been studied independently and in great depth in several prominent model systems including fruit flies, how these sensory cues are integrated to modify the motor control of behavior has received less attention. My laboratory approaches this challenge by combining behavioral, psychophysical, electrophysiological, and genetic techniques. We focus on three broad questions: (1) How are variations in the spatial and temporal structure of the visual world transformed into motor commands for walking or flight? (2) How are motor commands influenced by the integration or ?fusion? of input from multiple sensory modalities? (3) What are the physiological mechanisms and anatomical loci of multi-sensory fusion and sensory-motor integration? To address these questions, we integrate four complimentary experimental techniques: (1) electronic ?virtual reality? flight simulators for individual animals operating under natural feedback conditions, (2) a visual ?treadmill? outfitted with a real-time video tracking system that monitors the spatial distribution of large groups of waling flies in response to visual, thermal, or olfactory stimuli, (3) electrophysiological recordings from the central nervous system and flight muscles, and (4) molecular-genetics to target the expression of reporter and effector genes within the brain.

Selected Publications

Wasserman SW, Frye MA, "Herd mentality: Social context modulates behavioral responses to sensory stimuli", Curr Biol, 25 : R467-469 (2015) .

Aptekar JW, Keles MF, Lu PM, Zolotova NM, Frye MA, "Neurons forming optic glomeruli compute figure-ground discriminations", J Neuroscience, 35 : 7587-7599 (2015) .

Frye MA, "Quick guide to elementary motion detectors", Curr Biol, 25 : R215-217 (2015) .

Wasserman SW, Aptekar JW, Lu PM, Nguyen J, Wang AL, Keles MF, Grygoruk A, Krantz DE, Larsen C, Frye MA, "Olfactory neuromodulation of motion vision circuitry in Drosophila", Curr Biol, 25 : 467-472 (2015) .

Aptekar JW, Keles M, Mongeau JM, Lu P, Frye MA, "Method and software for using m-sequences to characterize parallel components of higher-order visual tracking behavior in Drosophila", Front Neural Circuits, (2014) [link].

Fox JL, Aptekar JW, Zolotova NM, Shoemaker PA, Frye MA, "Figure-ground discrimination I: Spatial organization of wing-steering responses", J Exp Biol, 217 : 558-569 (2014) .

Fox JL, Frye MA, "Figure-ground discrimination in Drosophila II: Visual influences on head movement", J Exp Biol, 217 : 570-579- (2014) .

Aptekar JW, Frye MA, "Higher-order figure discrimination in fly and human vision", Curr Biol, 23 : R694-700 (2013) .

Fox JL, Frye MA, "Animal behavior: Fly flight moves forward", Curr Biol, 23 : R278-279 (2013) .

Wasserman S, Salomon A, Frye MA, "Drosophila tracks CO2 in flight", Curr Biol, 23 : 301-306 (2013) .