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Congratulations are in order for Scott Waddell, who has been awarded a 2017 ERC Advanced Grant for a project entitled, ‘Single-cell correlates of memory, motivation and individuality’.

Scott is Professor of Neurobiology and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at the CNCB here in DPAG.

The grant will award Scott €2,499,055 over five years for his research.

Human brain function emerges from the collective action of millions of neurons. However, individual neurons come in many different types, defined by the distinct collections of genes that they express.

Recent cutting-edge technology permits simultaneous collection of transcriptomes (a list of genes that a cell expresses) from thousands of individually identified cells by first capturing each cell with a unique oligonucleotide-coated bead in a nanolitre volume reaction droplet.

The Waddell lab recently applied this approach to generate an atlas of 11,000 individual cells that is representative of the 50,000 cells that comprise the entire fly midbrain (Croset, Treiber & Waddell, 2018, eLife).

In work funded by this ERC Advanced Grant they will combine this remarkable single-cell transcriptomics technique with their cellular resolution knowledge of memory formation in the fruit fly, to discover how forming persistent memory alters gene expression within individual memory-relevant neurons. They will also search in single-cells for changes in gene expression that are correlated with the states of hunger and thirst.

Combining this new knowledge with the ability to control gene expression in specific neurons in the fly brain will provide an unprecedented individual cell-level view of transcriptional responses to memory formation, maintenance and motivational states, that is likely to be of broad importance and interest, given the evident evolutionary conservation of gene function.

“I’m thrilled to be awarded this ERC Advanced Grant,” commented Scott regarding this achievement.

“It’s a greatly appreciated recognition from my peers of our prior contributions to the field and their interest in our proposed research. Cutting-edge genomics is expensive science so these funds are essential for us to recruit new skilled people and to do these exciting experiments.”

For more information on the research that goes on in the Waddell lab, check out their research group page.