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Central complex neurons exhibit behaviorally gated responses to visual motion in Drosophila

Weir, Peter T. and Schnell, Bettina and Dickinson, Michael H. (2014) Central complex neurons exhibit behaviorally gated responses to visual motion in Drosophila. Journal of Neurophysiology, 111 (1). pp. 62-71. ISSN 0022-3077.

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Sensory systems provide abundant information about the environment surrounding an animal, but only a small fraction of that information is relevant for any given task. One example of this requirement for context-dependent filtering of a sensory stream is the role that optic flow plays in guiding locomotion. Flying animals, which do not have access to a direct measure of ground speed, rely on optic flow to regulate their forward velocity. This observation suggests that progressive optic flow, the pattern of front-to-back motion on the retina created by forward motion, should be especially salient to an animal while it is in flight, but less important while it is standing still. We recorded the activity of cells in the central complex of Drosophila melanogaster during quiescence and tethered flight using both calcium imaging and whole cell patch-clamp techniques. We observed a genetically identified set of neurons in the fan-shaped body that are unresponsive to visual motion while the animal is quiescent. During flight their baseline activity increases, and they respond to front-to-back motion with changes relative to this baseline. The results provide an example of how nervous systems selectively respond to complex sensory stimuli depending on the current behavioral state of the animal.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Weir, Peter T.0000-0003-3111-7829
Dickinson, Michael H.0000-0002-8587-9936
Additional Information:© 2014 the American Physiological Society. Received 20 August 2013. Accepted 3 October 2013. Published online 1 January 2014. We thank Akira Mamiya and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. This work was supported by the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation (B. Schnell), the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation (M. H. Dickinson), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Grant FA9550-10-1-0368 (M. H. Dickinson). Author Contributions: P.T.W. and M.H.D. conception and design of research; P.T.W. and B.S. performed experiments; P.T.W. analyzed data; P.T.W., B.S., and M.H.D. interpreted results of experiments; P.T.W. prepared figures; P.T.W. drafted manuscript; P.T.W., B.S., and M.H.D. edited and revised manuscript; P.T.W., B.S., and M.H.D. approved final version of manuscript. No conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, are declared by the authors.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Raymond and Beverly Sackler FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Paul G. Allen Family FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)FA9550-10-1-0368
Subject Keywords:context; task dependent; flight; fan-shaped body; optic flow
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20181116-113011724
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Official Citation:Central complex neurons exhibit behaviorally gated responses to visual motion in Drosophila Peter T. Weir, Bettina Schnell, and Michael H. Dickinson Journal of Neurophysiology 2014 111:1, 62-71
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:90975
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:16 Nov 2018 22:04
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 20:30

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