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Sensory navigation results from coordinated transitions between distinct behavioral programs. During chemotaxis in the larva, the detection of positive odor gradients extends runs while negative gradients promote stops and turns. This algorithm represents a foundation for the control of sensory navigation across phyla. In the present work, we identified an olfactory descending neuron, PDM-DN, which plays a pivotal role in the organization of stops and turns in response to the detection of graded changes in odor concentrations. Artificial activation of this descending neuron induces deterministic stops followed by the initiation of turning maneuvers through head casts. Using electron microscopy, we reconstructed the main pathway that connects the PDM-DN neuron to the peripheral olfactory system and to the pre-motor circuit responsible for the actuation of forward peristalsis. Our results set the stage for a detailed mechanistic analysis of the sensorimotor conversion of graded olfactory inputs into action selection to perform goal-oriented navigation.