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3 Publications

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    12/16/21 | Synaptic targets of photoreceptors specialized to detect color and skylight polarization in .
    Kind E, Longden KD, Nern A, Zhao A, Sancer G, Flynn MA, Laughland CW, Gezahegn B, Ludwig HD, Thomson AG, Obrusnik T, Alarcón PG, Dionne H, Bock DD, Rubin GM, Reiser MB, Wernet MF
    eLife. 2021 Dec 16;10:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.71858

    Color and polarization provide complementary information about the world and are detected by specialized photoreceptors. However, the downstream neural circuits that process these distinct modalities are incompletely understood in any animal. Using electron microscopy, we have systematically reconstructed the synaptic targets of the photoreceptors specialized to detect color and skylight polarization in Drosophila, and we have used light microscopy to confirm many of our findings. We identified known and novel downstream targets that are selective for different wavelengths or polarized light, and followed their projections to other areas in the optic lobes and the central brain. Our results revealed many synapses along the photoreceptor axons between brain regions, new pathways in the optic lobes, and spatially segregated projections to central brain regions. Strikingly, photoreceptors in the polarization-sensitive dorsal rim area target fewer cell types, and lack strong connections to the lobula, a neuropil involved in color processing. Our reconstruction identifies shared wiring and modality-specific specializations for color and polarization vision, and provides a comprehensive view of the first steps of the pathways processing color and polarized light inputs.

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    12/06/21 | Non-preferred contrast responses in the Drosophila motion pathways reveal a receptive field structure that explains a common visual illusion.
    Gruntman E, Reimers P, Romani S, Reiser MB
    Current Biology. 2021 Dec 06;31(23):5286. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.072

    Diverse sensory systems, from audition to thermosensation, feature a separation of inputs into ON (increments) and OFF (decrements) signals. In the Drosophila visual system, separate ON and OFF pathways compute the direction of motion, yet anatomical and functional studies have identified some crosstalk between these channels. We used this well-studied circuit to ask whether the motion computation depends on ON-OFF pathway crosstalk. Using whole-cell electrophysiology, we recorded visual responses of T4 (ON) and T5 (OFF) cells, mapped their composite ON-OFF receptive fields, and found that they share a similar spatiotemporal structure. We fit a biophysical model to these receptive fields that accurately predicts directionally selective T4 and T5 responses to both ON and OFF moving stimuli. This model also provides a detailed mechanistic explanation for the directional preference inversion in response to the prominent reverse-phi illusion. Finally, we used the steering responses of tethered flying flies to validate the model's predicted effects of varying stimulus parameters on the behavioral turning inversion.

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    07/16/21 | An inexpensive, high-precision, modular spherical treadmill setup optimized for experiments.
    Loesche F, Reiser MB
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 2021 Jul 16;15:689573. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2021.689573

    To pursue a more mechanistic understanding of the neural control of behavior, many neuroethologists study animal behavior in controlled laboratory environments. One popular approach is to measure the movements of restrained animals while presenting controlled sensory stimulation. This approach is especially powerful when applied to genetic model organisms, such as , where modern genetic tools enable unprecedented access to the nervous system for activity monitoring or targeted manipulation. While there is a long history of measuring the behavior of body- and head-fixed insects walking on an air-supported ball, the methods typically require complex setups with many custom components. Here we present a compact, simplified setup for these experiments that achieves high-performance at low cost. The simplified setup integrates existing hardware and software solutions with new component designs. We replaced expensive optomechanical and custom machined components with off-the-shelf and 3D-printed parts, and built the system around a low-cost camera that achieves 180 Hz imaging and an inexpensive tablet computer to present view-angle-corrected stimuli updated through a local network. We quantify the performance of the integrated system and characterize the visually guided behavior of flies in response to a range of visual stimuli. In this paper, we thoroughly document the improved system; the accompanying repository incorporates CAD files, parts lists, source code, and detailed instructions. We detail a complete ~$300 system, including a cold-anesthesia tethering stage, that is ideal for hands-on teaching laboratories. This represents a nearly 50-fold cost reduction as compared to a typical system used in research laboratories, yet is fully featured and yields excellent performance. We report the current state of this system, which started with a 1-day teaching lab for which we built seven parallel setups and continues toward a setup in our lab for larger-scale analysis of visual-motor behavior in flies. Because of the simplicity, compactness, and low cost of this system, we believe that high-performance measurements of tethered insect behavior should now be widely accessible and suitable for integration into many systems. This access enables broad opportunities for comparative work across labs, species, and behavioral paradigms.

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