Faculty AssistantRebecca Khaitman Heller
- Ph.D., Neuroscience, Stanford University
- S.B., Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Research FocusNeural Mechanisms Underlying Social Communication in Flies
Social Communication and Sensorimotor Transformations
Song Patterning and Production
Song Processing and Perception
Neural tuning for species-specific acoustic signals is a conserved feature of auditory systems – it is found from insects all the way to humans. However, the precise mechanisms involved remain mysterious. We take advantage of the tools available in Drosophila to investigate, at the level of individual neurons and patterns of electrical activity, how such tuning arises and how it relates to behavioral decisions.
We record neural activity along the auditory pathway and in response to sounds (both natural and synthetic), starting with mechanosensory neurons in the antenna (or ear of the fly) all the way to central brain regions. Using computational modeling, we can discover how neural codes relate to behavioral preferences for song.
Fast intensity adaptation enhances the encoding of sound in Drosophila. Nat Commun. 2018 ;9(1):134. .
Experimental and statistical reevaluation provides no evidence for Drosophila courtship song rhythms. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 ;114(37):9978-9983. .
Quantifying behavior to solve sensorimotor transformations: advances from worms and flies. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2017 ;46:90-98. .
To Fight or Not to Fight. Neuron. 2017 ;95(5):986-988. .
Cell-Type-Specific Transcriptome Analysis in the Drosophila Mushroom Body Reveals Memory-Related Changes in Gene Expression. Cell Rep. 2016 ;15(7):1580-96. .
Singing on the fly: sensorimotor integration and acoustic communication in Drosophila. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2016 ;38:38-45. .
Sensorimotor Transformations Underlying Variability in Song Intensity during Drosophila Courtship. Neuron. 2016 ;89(3):629-44. .
Connecting Neural Codes with Behavior in the Auditory System of Drosophila. Neuron. 2015 ;87(6):1332-43. .
Dynamic sensory cues shape song structure in Drosophila. Nature. 2014 ;507(7491):233-7. .
Multi-channel acoustic recording and automated analysis of Drosophila courtship songs. BMC Biol. 2013 ;11:11. .
Neural representations of courtship song in the Drosophila brain. J Neurosci. 2012 ;32(3):787-98. .
Unraveling the auditory system of Drosophila. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2010 ;20(3):281-7. .
Testing odor response stereotypy in the Drosophila mushroom body. Neuron. 2008 ;59(6):1009-23. .
- HHMI Faculty Scholar, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Dean for Research Innovation Fund for New Ideas in the Natural Sciences, Princeton University
- Director's New Innovator Award, National Institutes of Health
- BRAIN Initiative EAGER Award, National Science Foundation
- McDonnell Preceptor in Neuroscience, Princeton University
- McKnight Foundation Scholar Award, The McKnight Foundation
- Klingenstein Fellowship Award in the Neurosciences, The Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund
- Oxford-Princeton Collaborative Research Grant, Oxford University, Princeton University
- Human Frontiers Science Program Young Investigator Award, Human Frontier Science Program Organization
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
- National Science Foundation CAREER Award, National Science Foundation