Ear Institute Inaugural Lecture - Joerg Albert
17 March 2017, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm
Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre
The mechanosensory world(s) of flies: Sensing force and forcing sensation
Insects, and in particular the ubiquitous fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, have served as powerful tools of scientific exploration and discovery and as general models for our understanding of the living world for more than 100 years. In this lecture I will set out to exemplify how we, and others, have used the fly’s antennal ears to shed light on fundamental mechanisms, and molecules, of mechanosensory systems (e.g. those mediating the sense of wind, gravity or hearing). The lecture will also try to illustrate how, on a more general level, the study of fly hearing can contribute to our understanding, and potential prevention, of the sensory decline that comes with age (or results from trauma). I will next resort to the fact that, zoologically speaking, the term flies (as in true flies) also comprises the notorious group of blood-feeding mosquitoes and explain how our work might be a useful arrow in the quiver to fight insect-borne diseases, such as e.g. Malaria, Dengue or Zika fever. Finally, I will establish a link between mechanosensation and the circadian clock and present some work, which suggests that mechanical forces contribute to the sensation of time.
Inaugural lectures are an opportunity for recently-promoted professors to exhibit to the wider UCL community, and the public outside UCL, a flavour of their intellectual activity and research.