Marcel Sayre

affiliated with the university

Research areas and keywords


  • connectomics, neuroscience, insect, navigation


As a Cotutelle PhD student, I am dual enrolled at Lund University and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, which means that­—as long as I’m timing things right—I will continue to experience endlessly good weather. It also means that I am fortunate enough to participate in research that is part of a broader collaborative project between research groups at two different universities (Stanley Heinze’s group in Lund and Ajay Narendra’s group in Sydney).  

Our research is aimed at elucidating the functional role of an insect brain region known as the central complex (CX). The CX is an evolutionarily conserved group of midline neuropils which appear to be nearly identical across multiple families of hymenopteran insects (some of which diverged as long as 100-200 million years ago). Overwhelming evidence suggests that the central complex is fundamental for action selection, sensory integration, and navigation; a task which foraging insects are particularly good at. Despite the conserved nature of this neuropil, many species of foraging insects have been shown to use different strategies for navigating in their surrounding world. How does this conserved circuitry enable an insect to navigate in its environment? How does this circuitry change between species using different navigational strategies?


We are pursuing the answers to these questions by comparing the CX neuroarchitecture across six species of bees and ants, each of which either has a different strategy of navigation (path integration, landmark navigation, pheromone tracking), or differs in its preferred mode of locomotion (flying versus walking). By tracing all major neurons of the CX across these species using block-face electron microscopy, we will delineate projection patterns, as well as establish local connectomes of computational modules of the CX in a subset of species. This will illuminate the information flow within the CX and allow to construct anatomically constrained models of the fundamental computational processes in this brain region. With these neuroanatomical maps, we can intracellularly record from major CX neurons in species which show the most anatomically divergent traits. By revealing the role of specific neural elements in the CX, we can lead the way in understanding how sensory information is transformed into behavioral decisions within the context of navigation.

Recent research outputs

Nicholas James Strausfeld, Gabriella Hanna Wolff & Marcel Ethan Sayre, 2020, In : eLife. 9

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Hanne Halkinrud Thoen, Gabriella Hannah Wolff, Justin Marshall, Marcel E Sayre & Nicholas James Strausfeld, 2019 Oct 16, In : Journal of Comparative Neurology. 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Nicholas J. Strausfeld & Marcel E. Sayre, 2019 Aug 27, In : Journal of Comparative Neurology. 528, 2, p. 261-282

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

View All (7)