Lehrstuhl für Neurobiologie und Genetik

Damiano Zanini


I am interested in neurobiology of sensory systems, defining the mechanisms through which animals translate and combine sensory input into behavioral outputs.

Despite the structural differences, mechanosensory cells of the fly (present in both larval and adult stages) share many physiological, molecular and genetic similarities with the hair cells in our ears. This functional conservation makes Drosophila a model for studying hearing with the aim of advancing our understanding of the genes that regulate human hearing.

During my stay in M. Göpfert lab at the University of Göttingen I investigated the role of chordotonal organs in the fruit fly by combining genetics, molecular biology and immunohistochemistry to describe the mechanisms that mediate proprioception. Now I am using the Drosophila larva as a model to identify novel genes that are essential for mechanotransduction that might have mammalian homologs.

In its small way, Drosophila is able to use relatively simple intraspecific acoustic communication to elaborate social interactions. I am investigating the collective rhythm-regulating interactions that involve the perception of mechanical forces (i.e., touch and hearing) in order to shed light on how physical contacts and sounds produced by wing vibrations might help a single fly to adapt to the social rhythm of a group of flies.