Quantum Matter Seminar
Special Biophysics Seminar
Patterns are ubiquitous in both the animate and inanimate world, but a hallmark of living systems is that patterns are reproducible and encode function. I will discuss how biological function can be decoded from pattern geometry in two systems: a genetic network in a developing fly embryo, and a neural circuit in a larval zebrafish. In the first example, I show that cells in the developing fly embryo measure the spatial patterns of molecules from a small genetic network and turn these into optimal estimates of their position along the embryo's length. In the second example, larval zebrafish can navigate upstream even in the absence of visual cues by measuring the curl of the local water flow. To make this measurement, larval zebrafish use mechanosensory cells suggestively arranged along an oriented contour around the animal's body. I am using serial section electron microscopy to build the physical wiring diagram of the neural circuit that computes the curl.