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1 Janelia Publications

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    Heberlein LabSimpson Lab
    09/02/15 | A subset of serotonergic neurons evokes hunger in adult Drosophila.
    Albin SD, Kaun KR, Knapp J, Chung P, Heberlein U, Simpson JH
    Current Biology : CB. 2015 Sep 2;25(18):2435-40. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.005

    Hunger is a complex motivational state that drives multiple behaviors. The sensation of hunger is caused by an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. One immediate response to hunger is increased food consumption. Hunger also modulates behaviors related to food seeking such as increased locomotion and enhanced sensory sensitivity in both insects [1-5] and vertebrates [6, 7]. In addition, hunger can promote the expression of food-associated memory [8, 9]. Although progress is being made [10], how hunger is represented in the brain and how it coordinates these behavioral responses is not fully understood in any system. Here, we use Drosophila melanogaster to identify neurons encoding hunger. We found a small group of neurons that, when activated, induced a fed fly to eat as though it were starved, suggesting that these neurons are downstream of the metabolic regulation of hunger. Artificially activating these neurons also promotes appetitive memory performance in sated flies, indicating that these neurons are not simply feeding command neurons but likely play a more general role in encoding hunger. We determined that the neurons relevant for the feeding effect are serotonergic and project broadly within the brain, suggesting a possible mechanism for how various responses to hunger are coordinated. These findings extend our understanding of the neural circuitry that drives feeding and enable future exploration of how state influences neural activity within this circuit.

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