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13 Publications

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    05/18/22 | A functionally ordered visual feature map in the Drosophila brain.
    Klapoetke NC, Nern A, Rogers EM, Rubin GM, Reiser MB, Card GM
    Neuron. 2022 May 18;110(10):1700. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.02.013

    Topographic maps, the systematic spatial ordering of neurons by response tuning, are common across species. In Drosophila, the lobula columnar (LC) neuron types project from the optic lobe to the central brain, where each forms a glomerulus in a distinct position. However, the advantages of this glomerular arrangement are unclear. Here, we examine the functional and spatial relationships of 10 glomeruli using single-neuron calcium imaging. We discover novel detectors for objects smaller than the lens resolution (LC18) and for complex line motion (LC25). We find that glomeruli are spatially clustered by selectivity for looming versus drifting object motion and ordered by size tuning to form a topographic visual feature map. Furthermore, connectome analysis shows that downstream neurons integrate from sparse subsets of possible glomeruli combinations, which are biased for glomeruli encoding similar features. LC neurons are thus an explicit example of distinct feature detectors topographically organized to facilitate downstream circuit integration.

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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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    11/18/20 | Spatial readout of visual looming in the central brain of Drosophila.
    Morimoto MM, Nern A, Zhao A, Rogers EM, Wong A, Isaacson MD, Bock D, Rubin GM, Reiser MB
    eLife. 2020 Nov 18;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.57685

    Visual systems can exploit spatial correlations in the visual scene by using retinotopy. However, retinotopy is often lost, such as when visual pathways are integrated with other sensory modalities. How is spatial information processed outside of strictly visual brain areas? Here, we focused on visual looming responsive LC6 cells in , a population whose dendrites collectively cover the visual field, but whose axons form a single glomerulus-a structure without obvious retinotopic organization-in the central brain. We identified multiple cell types downstream of LC6 in the glomerulus and found that they more strongly respond to looming in different portions of the visual field, unexpectedly preserving spatial information. Through EM reconstruction of all LC6 synaptic inputs to the glomerulus, we found that LC6 and downstream cell types form circuits within the glomerulus that enable spatial readout of visual features and contralateral suppression-mechanisms that transform visual information for behavioral control.

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    01/15/20 | A genetic, genomic, and computational resource for exploring neural circuit function.
    Davis FP, Nern A, Picard S, Reiser MB, Rubin GM, Eddy SR, Henry GL
    eLife. 2020 Jan 15;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50901

    The anatomy of many neural circuits is being characterized with increasing resolution, but their molecular properties remain mostly unknown. Here, we characterize gene expression patterns in distinct neural cell types of the visual system using genetic lines to access individual cell types, the TAPIN-seq method to measure their transcriptomes, and a probabilistic method to interpret these measurements. We used these tools to build a resource of high-resolution transcriptomes for 100 driver lines covering 67 cell types, available at Combining these transcriptomes with recently reported connectomes helps characterize how information is transmitted and processed across a range of scales, from individual synapses to circuit pathways. We describe examples that include identifying neurotransmitters, including cases of apparent co-release, generating functional hypotheses based on receptor expression, as well as identifying strong commonalities between different cell types.

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    01/09/19 | Nuclear transcriptomes of the seven neuronal cell types that constitute the mushroom bodies.
    Shih MM, Davis FP, Henry GL, Dubnau J
    G3 (Bethesda, Md.). 2019 Jan 09;9(1):81-94. doi: 10.1534/g3.118.200726

    The insect mushroom body (MB) is a conserved brain structure that plays key roles in a diverse array of behaviors. The MB is the primary invertebrate model of neural circuits related to memory formation and storage, and its development, morphology, wiring, and function has been extensively studied. MBs consist of intrinsic Kenyon Cells that are divided into three major neuron classes (γ, α'/β' and α/β) and 7 cell subtypes (γd, γm, α'/β'ap, α'/β'm, α/βp, α/βs and α/βc) based on their birth order, morphology, and connectivity. These subtypes play distinct roles in memory processing, however the underlying transcriptional differences are unknown. Here, we used RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to profile the nuclear transcriptomes of each MB neuronal cell subtypes. We identified 350 MB class- or subtype-specific genes, including the widely used α/β class marker and the α'/β' class marker Immunostaining corroborates the RNA-seq measurements at the protein level for several cases. Importantly, our data provide a full accounting of the neurotransmitter receptors, transporters, neurotransmitter biosynthetic enzymes, neuropeptides, and neuropeptide receptors expressed within each of these cell types. This high-quality, cell type-level transcriptome catalog for the MB provides a valuable resource for the fly neuroscience community.

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    Reiser LabRubin LabFly Functional Connectome
    12/18/17 | Behavioral state modulates the ON visual motion pathway of Drosophila.
    Strother JA, Wu S, Rogers EM, Eliason JL, Wong AM, Nern A, Reiser MB
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2017 Dec 18;115(1):E102-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1703090115

    The behavioral state of an animal can dynamically modulate visual processing. In flies, the behavioral state is known to alter the temporal tuning of neurons that carry visual motion information into the central brain. However, where this modulation occurs and how it tunes the properties of this neural circuit are not well understood. Here, we show that the behavioral state alters the baseline activity levels and the temporal tuning of the first directionally selective neuron in the ON motion pathway (T4) as well as its primary input neurons (Mi1, Tm3, Mi4, Mi9). These effects are especially prominent in the inhibitory neuron Mi4, and we show that central octopaminergic neurons provide input to Mi4 and increase its excitability. We further show that octopamine neurons are required for sustained behavioral responses to fast-moving, but not slow-moving, visual stimuli in walking flies. These results indicate that behavioral-state modulation acts directly on the inputs to the directionally selective neurons and supports efficient neural coding of motion stimuli.

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    11/08/17 | Ultra-selective looming detection from radial motion opponency.
    Klapoetke NC, Nern A, Peek MY, Rogers EM, Breads P, Rubin GM, Reiser MB, Card GM
    Nature. 2017 Nov 08;551(7679):237-241. doi: 10.1038/nature24626

    Nervous systems combine lower-level sensory signals to detect higher-order stimulus features critical to survival, such as the visual looming motion created by an imminent collision or approaching predator. Looming-sensitive neurons have been identified in diverse animal species. Different large-scale visual features such as looming often share local cues, which means loom-detecting neurons face the challenge of rejecting confounding stimuli. Here we report the discovery of an ultra-selective looming detecting neuron, lobula plate/lobula columnar, type II (LPLC2) in Drosophila, and show how its selectivity is established by radial motion opponency. In the fly visual system, directionally selective small-field neurons called T4 and T5 form a spatial map in the lobula plate, where they each terminate in one of four retinotopic layers, such that each layer responds to motion in a different cardinal direction. Single-cell anatomical analysis reveals that each arm of the LPLC2 cross-shaped primary dendrites ramifies in one of these layers and extends along that layer's preferred motion direction. In vivo calcium imaging demonstrates that, as their shape predicts, individual LPLC2 neurons respond strongly to outward motion emanating from the centre of the neuron's receptive field. Each dendritic arm also receives local inhibitory inputs directionally selective for inward motion opposing the excitation. This radial motion opponency generates a balance of excitation and inhibition that makes LPLC2 non-responsive to related patterns of motion such as contraction, wide-field rotation or luminance change. As a population, LPLC2 neurons densely cover visual space and terminate onto the giant fibre descending neurons, which drive the jump muscle motor neuron to trigger an escape take off. Our findings provide a mechanistic description of the selective feature detection that flies use to discern and escape looming threats.

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    07/13/17 | Mapping the neural substrates of behavior.
    Robie AA, Hirokawa J, Edwards AW, Umayam LA, Lee A, Phillips ML, Card GM, Korff W, Rubin GM, Simpson JH, Reiser MB, Branson KM
    Cell. 2017-07-13;170(2):393-406. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.06.032

    Assigning behavioral functions to neural structures has long been a central goal in neuroscience and is a necessary first step toward a circuit-level understanding of how the brain generates behavior. Here, we map the neural substrates of locomotion and social behaviors for Drosophila melanogaster using automated machine-vision and machine-learning techniques. From videos of 400,000 flies, we quantified the behavioral effects of activating 2,204 genetically targeted populations of neurons. We combined a novel quantification of anatomy with our behavioral analysis to create brain-behavior correlation maps, which are shared as browsable web pages and interactive software. Based on these maps, we generated hypotheses of regions of the brain causally related to sensory processing, locomotor control, courtship, aggression, and sleep. Our maps directly specify genetic tools to target these regions, which we used to identify a small population of neurons with a role in the control of walking.

    •We developed machine-vision methods to broadly and precisely quantify fly behavior•We measured effects of activating 2,204 genetically targeted neuronal populations•We created whole-brain maps of neural substrates of locomotor and social behaviors•We created resources for exploring our results and enabling further investigation

    Machine-vision analyses of large behavior and neuroanatomy data reveal whole-brain maps of regions associated with numerous complex behaviors.

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    Rubin LabReiser LabFly Functional Connectome
    04/05/17 | The emergence of directional selectivity in the visual motion pathway of Drosophila.
    Strother JA, Wu S, Wong AM, Nern A, Rogers EM, Le JQ, Rubin GM, Reiser MB
    Neuron. 2017 Apr 05;94(1):168-182.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.03.010

    The perception of visual motion is critical for animal navigation, and flies are a prominent model system for exploring this neural computation. In Drosophila, the T4 cells of the medulla are directionally selective and necessary for ON motion behavioral responses. To examine the emergence of directional selectivity, we developed genetic driver lines for the neuron types with the most synapses onto T4 cells. Using calcium imaging, we found that these neuron types are not directionally selective and that selectivity arises in the T4 dendrites. By silencing each input neuron type, we identified which neurons are necessary for T4 directional selectivity and ON motion behavioral responses. We then determined the sign of the connections between these neurons and T4 cells using neuronal photoactivation. Our results indicate a computational architecture for motion detection that is a hybrid of classic theoretical models.

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    12/28/16 | Visual projection neurons in the Drosophila lobula link feature detection to distinct behavioral programs.
    Wu M, Nern A, Williamson WR, Morimoto MM, Reiser MB, Card GM, Rubin GM
    eLife. 2016 Dec 28;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.21022

    Visual projection neurons (VPNs) provide an anatomical connection between early visual processing and higher brain regions. Here we characterize lobula columnar (LC) cells, a class of Drosophila VPNs that project to distinct central brain structures called optic glomeruli. We anatomically describe 22 different LC types and show that, for several types, optogenetic activation in freely moving flies evokes specific behaviors. The activation phenotypes of two LC types closely resemble natural avoidance behaviors triggered by a visual loom. In vivo two-photon calcium imaging reveals that these LC types respond to looming stimuli, while another type does not, but instead responds to the motion of a small object. Activation of LC neurons on only one side of the brain can result in attractive or aversive turning behaviors depending on the cell type. Our results indicate that LC neurons convey information on the presence and location of visual features relevant for specific behaviors.

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