Vikas Bhandawat

Assistant Professor of Biology

225 Biological Sciences Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
(919) 684-1703
THE GOAL: A major goal in neuroscience is to understand how neural circuits represent sensory information or guide behavior. Because of the complexity of our nervous system it is often difficult to pinpoint the neurons that participate in a given task. Our overall aim is to map out “complete circuits” underlying simple and complex behaviors and understand neural computations with a knowledge of this complete circuit in hand. APPROACH: We will focus on the relatively simple brain of Drosophila to attack this problem. The fly’s brain can perform a surprisingly diverse array of behaviors with relatively few neurons (~100000). In particular, the olfactory circuit of Drosophila is uniquely appropriate for studying this question because its anatomical organization makes it possible to quantify the pool of neurons activated by a given stimulus. This anatomical simplification occurs because for each odorant receptor gene (there are ~50 in flies), there is an identifiable first-order neuron and an identifiable second-order neuron.We have a nearly complete picture of odor representation at the level of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). Basic principles underlying the transformation of odor responses from ORNs-to-PNs are also understood. Because of this groundwork, odors (stimuli) can readily be mapped onto patterns of ORNs and PNs. TECHNIQUES: We use single-cell recordings from neurons in the fly brain to understand neural computations. We have also developed behavioral paradigms to make quantitative assessment of flies’ behavioral output. We will complement these relatively new techniques with molecular genetics in the fly.


  • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University 2004

Hsu, CT, and Bhandawat, V. "Organization of descending neurons in Drosophila melanogaster." Scientific reports 6 (February 3, 2016): 20259-. Full Text

Jung, S-H, Hueston, C, and Bhandawat, V. "Odor-identity dependent motor programs underlie behavioral responses to odors." eLife 4 (October 6, 2015). Full Text

Jung, SH, Hueston, C, and Bhandawat, V. "Odor-identity dependent motor programs underlie behavioral responses to odors." eLife 4, no. OCTOBER2015 (October 6, 2015). Full Text

Bhandawat, V, Maimon, G, Dickinson, MH, and Wilson, RI. "Olfactory modulation of flight in Drosophila is sensitive, selective and rapid." J Exp Biol 213, no. Pt 21 (November 1, 2010): 3625-3635. Full Text

Bhandawat, V, Reisert, J, and Yau, K-W. "Signaling by olfactory receptor neurons near threshold." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107, no. 43 (October 26, 2010): 18682-18687. Full Text

Olsen, SR, Bhandawat, V, and Wilson, RI. "Divisive normalization in olfactory population codes." Neuron 66, no. 2 (April 29, 2010): 287-299. Full Text

Singer, JH, Glowatzki, E, Moser, T, Strowbridge, BW, Bhandawat, V, and Sampath, AP. "Functional properties of synaptic transmission in primary sense organs." J Neurosci 29, no. 41 (October 14, 2009): 12802-12806. (Review) Full Text

Bhandawat, V, Olsen, SR, Gouwens, NW, Schlief, ML, and Wilson, RI. "Sensory processing in the Drosophila antennal lobe increases reliability and separability of ensemble odor representations." Nat Neurosci 10, no. 11 (November 2007): 1474-1482. Full Text

Olsen, SR, Bhandawat, V, and Wilson, RI. "Excitatory interactions between olfactory processing channels in the Drosophila antennal lobe." Neuron 54, no. 1 (April 5, 2007): 89-103. Full Text