All nervous system functions, from the simple automatic motor response following doctor hammer percussion of your knee tendon, to the mental pleasure generated by a beautiful painting or the astonishing ability of falling asleep every day and waking up after sleep, are the consequence of simple binary informations travelling along chains of interconnected neurons which create nervous system circuits.
Neurons, not only must be able to generate all-or-none elctrical signals (the action potentials, i.e. the simple binary informations), but also to receive from other neurons and send to other neurons these signals.
Nervous system diseases are consequence of the damage of the single components (neurons) of neural circuits or of an impairment in trasferring informations from one neuron to the other.
A key role in the passage of informations from one neuron to the other, inside the neuronal circuit, is played by synapse, the point of contact between neurons.
The basic mechanisms of neuronal and synaptic function are evolutionarily maintained from the worms to humans.
In our Lab we study the basic mechanisms underlying synaptic function using the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. This relatively simple animal model allows us to combine extremely complex genetic and molecular techniques with advanced morphological/morphometrical, neurophysiological and behavioural techniques for studying nervous system function and morphology.