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4 Publications

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    10/17/23 | A comprehensive neuroanatomical survey of the Drosophila Lobula Plate Tangential Neurons with predictions for their optic flow sensitivity.
    Arthur Zhao , Aljoscha Nern , Sanna Koskela , Marisa Dreher , Mert Erginkaya , Connor W Laughland , Henrique DF Ludwig , Alex G Thomson , Judith Hoeller , Ruchi Parekh , Sandro Romani , Davi D Bock , Eugenia Chiappe , Michael B Reiser
    bioRxiv. 2023 Oct 17:. doi: 10.1101/2023.10.16.562634

    Flying insects exhibit remarkable navigational abilities controlled by their compact nervous systems. Optic flow, the pattern of changes in the visual scene induced by locomotion, is a crucial sensory cue for robust self-motion estimation, especially during rapid flight. Neurons that respond to specific, large-field optic flow patterns have been studied for decades, primarily in large flies, such as houseflies, blowflies, and hover flies. The best-known optic-flow sensitive neurons are the large tangential cells of the dipteran lobula plate, whose visual-motion responses, and to a lesser extent, their morphology, have been explored using single-neuron neurophysiology. Most of these studies have focused on the large, Horizontal and Vertical System neurons, yet the lobula plate houses a much larger set of 'optic-flow' sensitive neurons, many of which have been challenging to unambiguously identify or to reliably target for functional studies. Here we report the comprehensive reconstruction and identification of the Lobula Plate Tangential Neurons in an Electron Microscopy (EM) volume of a whole Drosophila brain. This catalog of 58 LPT neurons (per brain hemisphere) contains many neurons that are described here for the first time and provides a basis for systematic investigation of the circuitry linking self-motion to locomotion control. Leveraging computational anatomy methods, we estimated the visual motion receptive fields of these neurons and compared their tuning to the visual consequence of body rotations and translational movements. We also matched these neurons, in most cases on a one-for-one basis, to stochastically labeled cells in genetic driver lines, to the mirror-symmetric neurons in the same EM brain volume, and to neurons in an additional EM data set. Using cell matches across data sets, we analyzed the integration of optic flow patterns by neurons downstream of the LPTs and find that most central brain neurons establish sharper selectivity for global optic flow patterns than their input neurons. Furthermore, we found that self-motion information extracted from optic flow is processed in distinct regions of the central brain, pointing to diverse foci for the generation of visual behaviors.

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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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    12/11/19 | The computation of directional selectivity in the OFF motion pathway.
    Gruntman E, Romani S, Reiser MB
    eLife. 2019 Dec 11;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50706

    In flies, the direction of moving ON and OFF features is computed separately. T4 (ON) and T5 (OFF) are the first neurons in their respective pathways to extract a directionally selective response from their non-selective inputs. Our recent study of T4 found that the integration of offset depolarizing and hyperpolarizing inputs is critical for the generation of directional selectivity. However, T5s lack small-field inhibitory inputs, suggesting they may use a different mechanism. Here we used whole-cell recordings of T5 neurons and found a similar receptive field structure: fast depolarization and persistent, spatially offset hyperpolarization. By assaying pairwise interactions of local stimulation across the receptive field, we found no amplifying responses, only suppressive responses to the non-preferred motion direction. We then evaluated passive, biophysical models and found that a model using direct inhibition, but not the removal of excitation, can accurately predict T5 responses to a range of moving stimuli.

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    01/08/18 | Simple integration of fast excitation and offset, delayed inhibition computes directional selectivity in Drosophila.
    Gruntman E, Romani S, Reiser MB
    Nature Neuroscience. 2018 Jan 08;21(2):250-7. doi: 10.1038/s41593-017-0046-4

    A neuron that extracts directionally selective motion information from upstream signals lacking this selectivity must compare visual responses from spatially offset inputs. Distinguishing among prevailing algorithmic models for this computation requires measuring fast neuronal activity and inhibition. In the Drosophila melanogaster visual system, a fourth-order neuron-T4-is the first cell type in the ON pathway to exhibit directionally selective signals. Here we use in vivo whole-cell recordings of T4 to show that directional selectivity originates from simple integration of spatially offset fast excitatory and slow inhibitory inputs, resulting in a suppression of responses to the nonpreferred motion direction. We constructed a passive, conductance-based model of a T4 cell that accurately predicts the neuron's response to moving stimuli. These results connect the known circuit anatomy of the motion pathway to the algorithmic mechanism by which the direction of motion is computed.

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