Julie Simpson

JFRC, Julie Simpson
Associated partner

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Scientific Expertise & Collaborations: The Simpson lab studies neural circuit design principles in Drosophila melanogaster. We use the extensive genetic toolkit to acutely alter neural activity in discrete populations of neurons to assess behavioural consequences. Comparing the neural circuits that underlie different behaviours will reveal common and specific organizational motifs.  Specifically, the way simpler behavioural modules are linked together to form more complicated routines, the use of sensory feedback to cause behavioural progression, and the strategy for producing behavioural sequences is under investigation. The lab has extensive expertise in behavioural assay design, genetic engineering to manipulate neural activity in restricted patterns of neurons, and light-level imaging of adult fly brains and periphery. We also have some experience with electrophysiology in the central brain. Internally, the lab collaborates with the Rubin lab on intersectional strategies for refining GAL4 expression patterns, the Peng and Myers labs on computational analysis of image data, the Reiser lab on behavioural assay development, the Jayaraman lab on calcium imaging and electrophysiology, and the Looger lab on design of new proteins to alter neural activity. Through visitor projects, we have worked with Roland Strauss (Mainz) to establish behavioural assays and Volker Hartenstein (UCLA) on fly brain anatomy and nomenclature.

Training & Research Environment: The Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, VA, USA has approximately 25 labs investigating neural circuits and biological imaging techniques. All lab groups are small and highly collaborative. There are a number of official project teams as well as more informal associations. The research is supported by extensive core services. There is a small graduate program partnered with Cambridge and the University of Chicago and many small focused conferences are held on the campus.  There are several weekly journal clubs on a range of topics.

Most relevant publications:

1. Peng H, Ruan Z, Long F, Simpson JH, Myers EW. (2010) V3D enables real-time 3D visualization and quantitative analysis of large-scale biological image data sets Nat Biotechnol. Apr;28(4):348-53. 

2. Simpson, J.H. (2009). Mapping and manipulating neural circuits in the fly brain. Advances in Genetics 65, 79-143.