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2 Janelia Publications

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    08/08/22 | Neural network organization for courtship-song feature detection in Drosophila.
    Baker CA, McKellar C, Pang R, Nern A, Dorkenwald S, Pacheco DA, Eckstein N, Funke J, Dickson BJ, Murthy M
    Current Biology. 2022 Aug 08;32(15):3317-3333.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.06.019

    Animals communicate using sounds in a wide range of contexts, and auditory systems must encode behaviorally relevant acoustic features to drive appropriate reactions. How feature detection emerges along auditory pathways has been difficult to solve due to challenges in mapping the underlying circuits and characterizing responses to behaviorally relevant features. Here, we study auditory activity in the Drosophila melanogaster brain and investigate feature selectivity for the two main modes of fly courtship song, sinusoids and pulse trains. We identify 24 new cell types of the intermediate layers of the auditory pathway, and using a new connectomic resource, FlyWire, we map all synaptic connections between these cell types, in addition to connections to known early and higher-order auditory neurons-this represents the first circuit-level map of the auditory pathway. We additionally determine the sign (excitatory or inhibitory) of most synapses in this auditory connectome. We find that auditory neurons display a continuum of preferences for courtship song modes and that neurons with different song-mode preferences and response timescales are highly interconnected in a network that lacks hierarchical structure. Nonetheless, we find that the response properties of individual cell types within the connectome are predictable from their inputs. Our study thus provides new insights into the organization of auditory coding within the Drosophila brain.

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    02/09/22 | Ascending neurons convey behavioral state to integrative sensory and action selection centers in the brain
    Chin-Lin Chen , Florian Aymanns , Ryo Minegishi , Victor D. V. Matsuda , Nicolas Talabot , Semih Günel , Barry J. Dickson , Pavan Ramdya
    bioRxiv. 2022 Feb 09:. doi: 10.1101/2022.02.09.479566

    Knowledge of one’s own behavioral state—whether one is walking, grooming, or resting—is critical for contextualizing sensory cues including interpreting visual motion and tracking odor sources. Additionally, awareness of one’s own posture is important to avoid initiating destabilizing or physically impossible actions. Ascending neurons (ANs), interneurons in the vertebrate spinal cord or insect ventral nerve cord (VNC) that project to the brain, may provide such high-fidelity behavioral state signals. However, little is known about what ANs encode and where they convey signals in any brain. To address this gap, we performed a large-scale functional screen of AN movement encoding, brain targeting, and motor system patterning in the adult fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Using a new library of AN sparse driver lines, we measured the functional properties of 247 genetically-identifiable ANs by performing two-photon microscopy recordings of neural activity in tethered, behaving flies. Quantitative, deep network-based neural and behavioral analyses revealed that ANs nearly exclusively encode high-level behaviors—primarily walking as well as resting and grooming—rather than low-level joint or limb movements. ANs that convey self-motion—resting, walking, and responses to gust-like puff stimuli—project to the brain’s anterior ventrolateral protocerebrum (AVLP), a multimodal, integrative sensory hub, while those that encode discrete actions—eye grooming, turning, and proboscis extension—project to the brain’s gnathal ganglion (GNG), a locus for action selection. The structure and polarity of AN projections within the VNC are predictive of their functional encoding and imply that ANs participate in motor computations while also relaying state signals to the brain. Illustrative of this are ANs that temporally integrate proboscis extensions over tens-of-seconds, likely through recurrent interconnectivity. Thus, in line with long-held theoretical predictions, ascending populations convey high-level behavioral state signals almost exclusively to brain regions implicated in sensory feature contextualization and action selection.

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