Master'S Thesis Research

Universities and Institutes of France


October 15, 2021


  • Organisation/Company: inrae
  • Research Field: Biological sciences › Biology
  • Researcher Profile: First Stage Researcher (R1)
  • Application Deadline: 15/10/2021 18:00 - Europe/Brussels
  • Location: France › Versailles
  • Type Of Contract: Temporary
  • Job Status: Full-time
  • Hours Per Week: 35
  • Offer Starting Date: 01/01/2022
  • PheRousal: how pheromones trigger sexual arousal

    Context : 30% crop damage is caused by insect pests, whose reproduction relies on airborne sex-pheromones. After pheromone detection by the insect's nose (antenna), how does the motivation for sex build up in the male bug's brain – remains completely unknown! In the field, the naturally occurring sex-pheromones are weaponized to disrupt insect mating – the success of this biocontrol strategy crucially relies on our understanding of the link between pheromone-perception and sex-drive! Objective & Methodology: Our central hypothesis is that sex-pheromones incite a persistent change in activity of the brain's arousal centers, i.e., the effect of pheromone exposure, extends beyond the canonical olfactory system.

    The student will address this hypothesis in the model insect Drosophila, by analysing the influence of pheromonal odors on the arousal-controlling neurons of the brain, using the following tools: live imaging of neural activity, quantitative behavioural analyses, genetics, and circuit tracing with electron and photonic microscopy.

    Workflow : Preliminary results from calcium-imaging experiments in Drosophila hinted at information flow from second-order olfactory neurons (PNs: projection neurons) to the arousal neurons in the brain! -(1) The student will cross-examine the anatomical and physiological connectivity between pheromone-processing and arousal neurons. -(2) The student will analyze the behavioral effect of optogenetic stimulation of pheromone-sensing olfactory neurons on the state of arousal. Together, these two axes will reveal, how pheromonal odors trigger sexual arousal.

    Student profile : Interest to work at the interface of neuroscience, genetics, and chemical ecology. The student needs to be a fast learner; be autonomous, self-driven, and resourceful.

    Reference : Pheromones mediating copulation and attraction in Drosophila. Dweck et al., PNAS, 2015. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1504527112.

    About the NeO team's research : A central goal of our team is to understand the mechanisms involved in the translation of physiological pheromone response into behavioural outputs adapted to the environment. We aim to use the sex-pheromones of moths and Drosophila to decipher how sensory information is shared across dedicated neural circuits to organise brain-wide coordinated changes in behavioural drives.

    Societal impact : The work is poised to harness arousal-disrupting manipulations to suppress pheromone-guided mate search behaviour of pest insects. Secondly, it will pave the way to use scent – i.e., pheromonal odours – to force pest insects to be behaviourally active at inopportune times of the day.

    Offer Requirements Skills/Qualifications

    Interest to work at the interface of neuroscience, genetics and chemical ecology. The student needs to be a fast learner; be autonomous, self-driven and resourceful. Prior training in molecular neurobiology or circuit neuroscience would be an asset, but not a requirement per se.

    Contact Information
  • Organisation/Company: inrae
  • Organisation Type: Public Research Institution
  • Website: https:// www.
  • E-Mail:
  • Country: France
  • City: Versailles
  • Postal Code: 78026
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