Aoife Larkin

I’m interested in the interplay between genes and behavior; how does our genetic code bestow on us a unique perception of our environment, and how can this be altered with experience?

I completed my undergraduate degree in Science at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, majoring in Neuroscience. My final year project, under the supervision of Prof Shane O’Mara and Dr Aine Kelly, investigated links between behavior (object displacement learning), and particular molecules (NMDA receptors, ERK) in specific brain regions (dentate gyrus) in rats.

I then began my Ph.D. in Trinity College, under the supervision of Prof Mani Ramaswami. This is when I was introduced to the world of Drosophila, in what was the first fruit fly lab in Ireland. During my Ph.D., I examined the mechanisms that underlie habituation, a common form of learning and memory. Drosophila (both adults and larvae) show attenuated responses to an odour following pre-exposure to that odour (olfactory habituation); these changes can be short- or long-term, and recover spontaneously.  Through work in the Ramaswami lab, in collaboration with the Rodrigues lab in NCBS (Bangalore, India), changes in olfactory behaviour were traced to central circuitry in the antennal lobe, implicating GABAergic plasticity as a potentially important and far-reaching mechanism for not only different forms of habituation, but also learning and memory in general.

I moved to the Queensland Brain Institute at the end of 2011 to work as a postdoc in the labs of Bruno van Swinderen, Charles Claudianos and Judith Reinhard. My research at the moment attempts to investigate mechanisms that specify synapse development in the brain, by trying to understand interactions of particular cell adhesion molecules: the neurexins and neuroligins. How might a subcode of interactions lead to specification of particular types of synapses, and what effects could this have at a behavioral level?

Publications:

Das S, Sadanandappa MK, Dervan A, Larkin A, Lee JA, Priya R, Heidari R, Pimentel A, Gandhi A, Ito K, Sanyal S, Wang JW, Rodrigues V, Ramaswami M (2011) “Plasticity of local GABAergic interneurons drives olfactory habituation.” PNAS.

McCann C, Holohan EE, Das S, Dervan A, Larkin A, Lee JA, Rodrigues V, Parker R, Ramaswami M (2011) “The Ataxin-2 protein is required for microRNA function and synapse-specific long-term olfactory habituation.” PNAS.

Larkin A, Karak S, Priya R, Das A, Ayyub C, Ito K, Rodrigues V, Ramaswami M (2010) “Central synaptic mechanisms underlie short-term olfactory habituation in Drosophila larvae.” Learning & Memory.Larkin AE, Fahey B, Gobbo O, Callaghan CK, Cahill E, O’Mara SM, Kelly AM (2008) “Blockade of NMDA receptors pre-training, but not post-training, impairs object displacement learning in the rat.” Brain Research.