The senses detect various physical features of the outside world. Photons, sound waves and chemicals activate different specialized receptors in peripheral sensory neurons. As sensory information can often be noisy, misleading or insufficient, the brain weighs the information gathered through different senses and integrates it into a unified percept. This multisensory integration enables the brain to form a richer and more reliable representation of the outside world. Although the question of how the brain forms a unified percept has intrigued philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists for centuries, little is known about the exact neuronal and cellular mechanisms underlying multisensory integration.
Our lab is investigating multisensory integration in the Drosophila mushroom body. The mushroom body has long been studied for its role in the formation of olfactory memories, but it also receives input form other senses. We are currently determining which sensory modalities the mushroom body processes and how it forms multisensory representations. Our ultimate goal is to understand the extent and nature of the interactions between the senses such that the brain can represent and remember complex, multimodal stimuli.