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Published March 2010 | public
Journal Article Open

Active flight increases the gain of visual motion processing in Drosophila


We developed a technique for performing whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from genetically identified neurons in behaving Drosophila. We focused on the properties of visual interneurons during tethered flight, but this technique generalizes to different cell types and behaviors. We found that the peak-to-peak responses of a class of visual motion–processing interneurons, the vertical-system visual neurons (VS cells), doubled when flies were flying compared with when they were at rest. Thus, the gain of the VS cells is not fixed, but is instead behaviorally flexible and changes with locomotor state. Using voltage clamp, we found that the passive membrane resistance of VS cells was reduced during flight, suggesting that the elevated gain was a result of increased synaptic drive from upstream motion-sensitive inputs. The ability to perform patch-clamp recordings in behaving Drosophila promises to help unify the understanding of behavior at the gene, cell and circuit levels.

Additional Information

© 2010 Nature Publishing Group. Received 08 September 2009. Accepted 28 December 2009. Published online 14 February 2010. We thank J. Assad, V. Bhandawat, G. Card, C. Chiu, M. Do, T. Herrington, W. Korff, G. Laurent, M. Murthy, P. Polidoro, G. Turner and R. Wilson for helpful discussion, comments and aid in developing the preparation. We are grateful to L. Luo for the Gal4-3a fly line. This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research 0623527 award (M.H.D.) and a Caltech Della Martin fellowship (G.M.). Author Contributions: G.M., A.D.S. and M.H.D. designed the experiments. G.M. and M.H.D. wrote the paper. G.M. developed the preparation, conducted the experiments and analyzed the data. A.D.S. designed the software and hardware system for tracking wing beat amplitudes in real time.

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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023