In most animals, the brain makes behavioral decisions that are transmitted by descending neurons to the nerve cord circuitry that produces behaviors. In insects, only a few descending neurons have been associated with specific behaviors. To explore how descending neurons control an insect's movements, we developed a novel method to systematically assay the behavioral effects of activating individual neurons on freely behaving terrestrial D. melanogaster. We calculated a two-dimensional representation of the entire behavior space explored by these flies and we associated descending neurons with specific behaviors by identifying regions of this space that were visited with increased frequency during optogenetic activation. Applying this approach across a large collection of descending neurons, we found that (1) activation of most of the descending neurons drove stereotyped behaviors, (2) in many cases multiple descending neurons activated similar behaviors, and (3) optogenetically-activated behaviors were often dependent on the behavioral state prior to activation.
- Jessica Cande
- Shigehiro Namiki
- Wyatt Korff
- Gwyneth M Card
- David L Stern
- Josh W Shaevitz
- Gordon J Berman
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Kristin Scott, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, United States
© 2018, Cande et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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The neurons that connect the brain and ventral nerve cord in fruit flies have been mapped in unprecedented detail.