Neural control of instinctive and innate behaviour
Additional Organiser: Hertie Foundation
Attendance type(s): In Person
Event Dates: 06—12 Dec 2018
Instinctive behaviours such as feeding, fighting or avoiding threats, are fundamental actions that have been selected through evolution to increase survival. Classical ethology studies have shown that these actions are often innate, and deployed in response to primitive motivational drives. However, they also support learning of new behavioural sequences to satisfy the same basic motivations and are therefore the key building block for all natural behaviours. Reaching an understanding of instinctive behaviours at the neural level has traditionally been a challenge because they are best studied in naturalistic settings, and are therefore not easily amenable to rigorous experimental control. However, recent technical advances across systems neuroscience provide an unprecedented opportunity for understanding the neural basis of instinct. In this school, we will cover instinctive behaviours across species, and build an overview of the current knowledge on neural control of instinctive behaviour, from historical field work to the most recent laboratory studies. We will discuss what components of instinctive behaviours are truly innate and how they can be implemented by nervous systems, and consider the intersection of neural circuits and mechanisms for innate behaviour with the classical systems that support learning. Great emphasis will be placed on new approaches for bringing naturalistic behaviours into the laboratory, allowing simultaneous high-resolution measurements of behaviour and neural activity, as well as theoretical modelling and causal interrogations of current hypotheses. We will aim to summarise the most exciting unknowns and challenges in this field and debate how to best solve them throughout the school.