I am interested in the neural circuits that control food selection and intake and how dysregulation within these circuits contributes adversely to conditions of overweight and obesity. Now on par with tobacco, overweight and obesity are the leading causes of preventable death nationally - claiming an estimated 300,000 lives every year. While brain systems related to feeding in mammals continue to be the subject of intense research, this work can present conceptual and practical challenges. Fortunately, feeding is a ubiquitous behavior and so can be approached by investigating the less complex circuits present in simpler model systems. In recent years Drosophila melanogaster has emerged as one such expedient model.
My lab integrates a wide range of technical approaches in working with the fruit fly: multiple behavioral assays, in vivo cellular-resolution functional imaging from defined cell types, confocal imaging and immunohistochemistry, thermo- and optogenetics for cell-type specific manipulation, and single cell RNA sequencing. Using these methodologies in parallel, we now have the opportunity to link the physiology and function of individual cells within the feeding circuit with its gene expression network and ultimately its role in behavior.
The rationale to study feeding behavior extends beyond the management of maladaptive behaviors. Feeding presents an opening to study a behavior at once complex and universal. It by necessity integrates sensory, homeostatic, circadian, reward, and motor processing streams. By coupling a compact brain with a vast experimental toolkit to delineate a full feeding circuit we not only seek to provide foundational work in the fight against obesity but we also aim to identify principles of processing and modification within motivational circuitry more generally.
For more information, please see our lab website: www.beshel-lab.com
Beshel, J.,Dubnau, J. and Zhong, Y. (2017) A leptin analog locally produced in the brain acts via a conserved neural circuit to modulate obesity-linked behaviors in Drosophila. Cell Metabolism, 25:208-217.
Sachse, S. and Beshel, J. (2016) The good, the bad, and the hungry: How the central brain codes odor valence to facilitate food approach in Drosophila. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 40:53-58.
Beshel, J. and Zhong, Y. (2013) Graded encoding of food odor value in the Drosophila brain.
The Journal of Neuroscience, 33: 15693-704.