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Vogt lab

Behavioral Neuroscience in Drosophila Larvae

How do context and internal state modulate behavior and the underlying neural processing in the brain?



The natural world is complex and constantly changing, so over time, we are experiencing different combinations of external sensory cues (visual/olfactory/mechanosensory...) in different contexts (social/solitary). Additionally, our internal state can vary, for example when we are hungry, sleepy, or stressed. To make appropriate behavioral decisions that are beneficial for us and satisfy our needs, our brain needs to integrate and process all available external and internal information.


Deciphering the neural mechanisms that underlie this behavioral flexibility towards different external cues and in different internal states is a major goal of my research. To this end, I use the Drosophila larva as a model organism. Even though their brain consists of only about 10.000 neurons, fruit fly larvae also display flexibility in their behavioral responses; for example, food-deprived larvae are attracted to an odorant that they would normally avoid when fed (Vogt et al., 2021).

In Drosophila, we can dissect and understand neural circuits in detail by manipulating single cell types or cell components using genetic tools, such as optogenetics, RNAi knockdown, or CRISPR knockout. Furthermore, in the fly larvae, it is possible to perform functional imaging in the intact, transparent animal to record the activity of single cell types. The whole brain of the fly larvae has been reconstructed from EM data so that the functional information acquired by behavior and imaging experiments can be integrated into whole-brain connectivity.

Currently, we are investigating how food deprivation affects other behaviors than olfactory preference and what are the neural mechanisms underlying those changes in behavior. We are also interested in how larvae interact in a group and how their behavior changes depending on the context, internal state, group constellation, and group size. 

Fly larvae can perform cannibalistic behavior and can survive by feeding on conspecifics only. In our assay, we find that larvae rarely approach dead conspecifics. Food deprivation, however, enhances this preference significantly. We are now investigating why fed larvae avoid dead conspecifics and how hunger modulates information processing and behavioral output.

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Photocredits: E. Böker, CASCB




Constantin Dyroff

Bachelor Student


Hari P. Narayanan

PhD student


Katrin Vogt

Group Leader


Nora Tutas

Research Assistant


Akhila Mudunuri

PhD Student


Julius Klein

Research Assistant



Zhu ML, Herrera KJ, Vogt K., Bahl A. Navigational strategies underlying temporal phototaxis in Drosophila larvae. J Exp Biol 2021; jeb.242428

Vogt K, Zimmerman D, Schlichting M, Hernandez L, Qin S, Malacon K, Rosbash M, Pehlevan C, Cardona A, Samuel A DT. Internal state configures olfactory behavior and early sensory processing in Drosophila larva.Vol.7, no. 1, eabd6900, Science Advances, 2021

Vogt K. Towards a functional connectome in Drosophila. Journal of Neurogenetics, 2020

Vogt K, Aso Y, Knapek S., Hige T, Friedrich AB, Turner G, Rubin GM, Tanimoto H. Direct neural pathways convey distinct visual information to Drosophila mushroom bodies. eLife;5:e14009, 2016

Vogt K, Yarali A, Tanimoto H. Reversing event timing in visual conditioning leads to memories with opposite valence in Drosophila. PLOS ONE 10(10): e0139797, 2015

Vogt K, Schnaitmann C, Dylla KV, Knapek S, Aso Y, Rubin GM, Tanimoto H. Shared mushroom body circuits underlie visual and olfactory memories in Drosophila. eLife;3:e02395, 2014

Aso Y, Sitaraman D, Ichinose T, Kaun KR, Vogt K, et al. Mushroom body output neurons encode valence and guide memory-based action selection in Drosophila. eLife;3:e04580, 2014

Eschbach C, Vogt K, Schmuker M, Gerber B. The similarity between odors and their binary mixtures in DrosophilaChem Senses 36 (7): 613-621, 2011

Schnaitmann C, Vogt K, Triphan T, Tanimoto H. Appetitive and aversive visual learning in freely moving DrosophilaFront Behav Neurosci 4: 10, 2010

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