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Pelin Cayirlioglu Volkan

Associate Professor of Biology
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
4313 French Family Science Center, Durham, NC 27708


The primary intellectual focus of our lab centers on unraveling the molecular and circuit mechanisms through which social experiences mold the brains and responses of organisms. To investigate these phenomena, we employ the fruit fly nervous system as a model and take an interdisciplinary approach that integrates genetic, behavioral, circuit-mapping, and systems-level molecular tools. Recent advancements in neurogenetics and neuro-visualization techniques in Drosophila melanogaster, a model system with a rich history in behavioral and neurogenetic research, provide us with unique and unprecedented advantages for exploring these questions. Within the realm of fruit flies, several noteworthy observations emerge: 1) Social isolation exerts significant effects on the Drosophila brain and behaviors, 2) well-established connections exist between genes, neural circuits, and stereotyped social behaviors, 3) the utilization of gene editing and neuronal circuit mapping methods is unparalleled, and 4) these resources are further enriched by existing and upcoming connectome data. Leveraging this comprehensive toolset, our overarching objective is to identify genes regulated by social isolation, determine their expression and function in individual neurons and circuits in the brain, and ascertain how variations in these processes influence both brain function and behavioral responses to isolation.

Questions we are interested in:

1- How does social experience and pheromone circuit activity modulate gene expression in the nervous system?

2- How does social experience and pheromone circuit activity modulate circuit structure and function?

3- How does social experience and pheromone circuit activity modulate behaviors like locomotion, feeding, courtship and aggression?

4- How does social experience and pheromone circuit activity modulate physiology like metabolism, circulatory system and immunity?

5- What makes individuals more sensitive or resilient to the effects of social experience?

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Associate Professor of Biology · 2019 - Present Biology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Associate Professor of Cell Biology · 2022 - Present Cell Biology, Basic Science Departments
Associate Professor in Neurobiology · 2023 - Present Neurobiology, Basic Science Departments
Investigator in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences · 2009 - Present Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, University Institutes and Centers

Education, Training & Certifications

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill · 2003 Ph.D.
Bogazici University (Turkey) · 1997 M.S.
Bogazici University (Turkey) · 1995 B.S.