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Published August 15, 1996 | Published
Journal Article Open

Haltere Afferents Provide Direct, Electrotonic Input to a Steering Motor Neuron in the Blowfly, Calliphora


The first basalar muscle (b1) is one of 17 small muscles in flies that control changes in wing stroke kinematics during steering maneuvers. The b1 is unique, however, in that it fires a single phase-locked spike during each wingbeat cycle. The phase-locked firing of the b1's motor neuron (mnb1) is thought to result from wingbeat-synchronous mechanosensory input, such as that originating from the campaniform sensilla at the base of the halteres. Halteres are sophisticated equilibrium organs of flies that function to detect angular rotations of the body during flight. We have developed a new preparation to determine whether the campaniform sensilla at the base of the halteres are responsible for the phasic activity of b1. Using intracellular recording and mechanical stimulation, we have found one identified haltere campaniform field (dF2) that provides strong synaptic input to the mnb1. This haltere to mnb1 connection consists of a fast and a slow component. The fast component is monosynaptic, mediated by an electrical synapse, and thus can follow haltere stimulation at high frequencies. The slow component is possibly polysynaptic, mediated by a chemical synapse, and fatigues at high stimulus frequencies. Thus, the fast monosynaptic electrical pathway between haltere afferents and mnb1 may be responsible in part for the phase-locked firing of b1 during flight.

Additional Information

© 1996 Society for Neuroscience. Beginning six months after publication the Work will be made freely available to the public on SfN's website to copy, distribute, or display under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Received April 10, 1996; revised May 28, 1996; accepted May 30, 1996. This study was supported by National Institutes of Health Training Grant T32-GM-07839 to A.F., and by the David and Lucille Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering and National Science Foundation Grant IBN-0208765 awarded to M.H.D. We thank Dr. Jonathan Art for use of the piezoelectric crystal used for mechanical stimulation in this study.

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