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4 Janelia Publications

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    Simpson Lab
    09/07/15 | A neural command circuit for grooming movement control.
    Hampel S, Franconville R, Simpson JH, Seeds AM
    eLife. 2015 Sep 7;4:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.08758

    Animals perform many stereotyped movements, but how nervous systems are organized for controlling specific movements remains unclear. Here we use anatomical, optogenetic, behavioral, and physiological techniques to identify a circuit in Drosophila melanogaster that can elicit stereotyped leg movements that groom the antennae. Mechanosensory chordotonal neurons detect displacements of the antennae and excite three different classes of functionally connected interneurons, which include two classes of brain interneurons and different parallel descending neurons. This multilayered circuit is organized such that neurons within each layer are sufficient to specifically elicit antennal grooming. However, we find differences in the durations of antennal grooming elicited by neurons in the different layers, suggesting that the circuit is organized to both command antennal grooming and control its duration. As similar features underlie stimulus-induced movements in other animals, we infer the possibility of a common circuit organization for movement control that can be dissected in Drosophila.

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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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    Zlatic LabFetter LabBranson LabSimpson LabTruman LabCardona LabFlyEM
    04/20/15 | A multilevel multimodal circuit enhances action selection in Drosophila.
    Ohyama T, Schneider-Mizell CM, Fetter RD, Aleman JV, Franconville R, Rivera-Alba M, Mensh BD, Branson KM, Simpson JH, Truman JW, Cardona A, Zlatic M
    Nature. 2015 Apr 20;520(7549):633-9. doi: 10.1038/nature14297

    Natural events present multiple types of sensory cues, each detected by a specialized sensory modality. Combining information from several modalities is essential for the selection of appropriate actions. Key to understanding multimodal computations is determining the structural patterns of multimodal convergence and how these patterns contribute to behaviour. Modalities could converge early, late or at multiple levels in the sensory processing hierarchy. Here we show that combining mechanosensory and nociceptive cues synergistically enhances the selection of the fastest mode of escape locomotion in Drosophila larvae. In an electron microscopy volume that spans the entire insect nervous system, we reconstructed the multisensory circuit supporting the synergy, spanning multiple levels of the sensory processing hierarchy. The wiring diagram revealed a complex multilevel multimodal convergence architecture. Using behavioural and physiological studies, we identified functionally connected circuit nodes that trigger the fastest locomotor mode, and others that facilitate it, and we provide evidence that multiple levels of multimodal integration contribute to escape mode selection. We propose that the multilevel multimodal convergence architecture may be a general feature of multisensory circuits enabling complex input–output functions and selective tuning to ecologically relevant combinations of cues.

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    Simpson Lab
    04/01/15 | Generating customized transgene landing sites and multi-transgene arrays in Drosophila using phiC31 integrase.
    Knapp J, Chung P, Simpson JH
    Genetics. 2015 Apr;199(4):919-34. doi: 10.1534/genetics.114.173187

    Transgenesis in numerous eukaryotes has been facilitated by the use of site-specific integrases to stably insert transgenes at predefined genomic positions (landing sites). However, the utility of integrase-mediated transgenesis in any system is constrained by the limited number and variable expression properties of available landing sites. By exploiting the nonstandard recombination activity exhibited by a phiC31 integrase mutant, we developed a rapid and inexpensive method for isolating landing sites that exhibit desired expression properties. Additionally, we devised a simple technique for constructing arrays of transgenes at a single landing site, thereby extending the utility of previously characterized landing sites. Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, we demonstrate the feasibility of these approaches by isolating new landing sites optimized to express transgenes in the nervous system and by building fluorescent reporter arrays at several landing sites. Because these strategies require the activity of only a single exogenous protein, we anticipate that they will be portable to species such as nonmodel organisms, in which genetic manipulation is more challenging, expediting the development of genetic resources in these systems.

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