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Mark Frye

Mark Frye

Director of Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology (MCIP) Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program

Office: 2014 TLSB
Phone: (310) 825-5360


Professor Frye grew up in upstate New York, and after completing a BA in psychology at SUNY Oneonta, he expanded his studies of neuroscience at Union College, where he received his MS for research on the cellular neurophysiology of dragonfly vision with Robert Olberg. He moved to University of Washington to complete a PhD on the sensory biomechanics of flight control in the hawkmoth under the mentorship of Tom Daniel and Jim Truman. His postdoctoral training was with Michael Dickinson at UC Berkeley and Caltech studying multimodal sensory control of flight behavior in Drosophila. In his own lab he uses virtual reality behavior, neurogenetics, and live brain imaging to understand how sensory signals are encoded, fused across modalities, and transformed into the motor control of complex behavior.

Research Interests

General introduction How are flexible and robust animal behaviors orchestrated by the nervous system? Different forms of this general question have occupied neuroscientists for decades. Great strides have been made toward describing the elements of nervous system development, structure, and function. Our next challenge is to examine how behavior emerges from the interactions among genetic, cellular, cell-system, and organ-system levels of organization. My laboratory studies these interactions in a powerful model system ? the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Whereas research with Drosophila is most often focused within the molecular-genetic spectrum of modern biology, this animal also shows remarkable behavioral performance, making its living navigating vast distances through complex visual landscapes in search of the source of an attractive odor. A fly?s sophisticated navigation capabilities emerge from the fusion of multiple sensory modalities and transformation of a robust motor code. By combining the rapidly expanding toolkit of fruit fly molecular genetics with live imaging and 'virtual reality' behavioral techniques, we hope to reveal the functional mechanisms and structural circuits with which the fly brain coordinates the biomechanics and dynamics of complex sensory behavior. The results of this cross-disciplinary approach could have broad impact on our understanding of the general principles of sensory fusion and sensory-motor integration common among animal taxa, and also motivate specialized technical advances in bio-inspired robotic devices.


M.S., Neuroscience, Union College 1992
Ph.D., Zoology, University of Washington 2000

Selected Publications

Keleş MF, Hardcastle BJ, Städele C, Xiao Q, Frye MA. Inhibitory Interactions

and Columnar Inputs to an Object Motion Detector in Drosophila. Cell Reports, (7):2115-2124 (2020).

Cheng KY, Frye MA. Neuromodulation of insect motion vision. Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 206(2):125-137 (2020).

Mongeau JM, Frye MA, “Flies spatio-temporally integrate visual signals to control saccades”, Current Biology, 27 (9): 2901-2914 (2017) .

Aptekar JW, Keles MF, Lu PM, Zolotova NM, Frye MA, “Neurons forming optic glomeruli compute figure-ground discriminations”, J Neuroscience, 35 : 7587-7599 (2015) .

Frye MA, “Quick guide: Elementary motion detectors”, Curr Biol, 25 : R215-217 (2015) .

Wasserman SW, Aptekar JW, Lu PM, Nguyen J, Wang AL, Keles MF, Grygoruk A, Krantz DE, Larsen C, Frye MA, “Olfactory neuromodulation of motion vision circuitry in Drosophila”, Curr Biol, 25 : 467-472 (2015) .