Dan Turner-Evans

Dan Turner Evans

Assistant Professor of MCD Biology

B.S., Yale University, New Haven, CT

Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Postdoctorate, HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, VA


The brain is an incredible organ. Its tens of millions of neurons can each connect to thousands of partners, forming a complex network that holds our thoughts and our feelings and guides our actions. The human brain, and brains in general, consist of linked computational units, known as “neural circuits,” that control specific cognitive processes. In our lab, we ask how do different types of neural circuits generate specific computations through unique combinations of neural network connectivity and cellular biophysics?

Rather than start with the full complexity of the human brain, we instead turn to a far simpler—yet still surprisingly complex—model organism: the fruit fly. The central brain of the fruit fly has 100,000 neurons. These neurons guide the animal as it navigates, allow it to remember attractive and repulsive odors, and orchestrate courtship behavior. Recently, all of the neurons in the fly central brain were imaged at high resolution with electron microscopy, allowing the connectivity between the neurons that drive these behaviors to be thoroughly mapped. We use these neural connectivity maps to define computational motifs and then generate hypotheses about how the structure of these motifs leads to their individual functions. These hypotheses are then tested with the powerful set of genetic tools that are unique to the fruit fly. Almost every neuron in the fruit fly brain can consistently be identified across animals, and each neuron’s activity can be monitored, excited, or inhibited.

Overall, we use the connectome and the genetic tools of the fruit fly to characterize neural circuits from the bottom up. We are always eager to have enthusiastic scientists and engineers join our effort and are committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion not just in our lab, but in science in general. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.

Please follow this link to find Dr. Turner Evan's publications in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database.