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5 Janelia Publications

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    03/14/22 | A population of descending neurons that regulates the flight motor of Drosophila.
    Namiki S, Ros IG, Morrow C, Rowell WJ, Card GM, Korff W, Dickinson MH
    Current Biology. 2022 Mar 14;32(5):1189-1196. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.01.008

    Similar to many insect species, Drosophila melanogaster is capable of maintaining a stable flight trajectory for periods lasting up to several hours. Because aerodynamic torque is roughly proportional to the fifth power of wing length, even small asymmetries in wing size require the maintenance of subtle bilateral differences in flapping motion to maintain a stable path. Flies can even fly straight after losing half of a wing, a feat they accomplish via very large, sustained kinematic changes to both the damaged and intact wings. Thus, the neural network responsible for stable flight must be capable of sustaining fine-scaled control over wing motion across a large dynamic range. In this study, we describe an unusual type of descending neuron (DNg02) that projects directly from visual output regions of the brain to the dorsal flight neuropil of the ventral nerve cord. Unlike many descending neurons, which exist as single bilateral pairs with unique morphology, there is a population of at least 15 DNg02 cell pairs with nearly identical shape. By optogenetically activating different numbers of DNg02 cells, we demonstrate that these neurons regulate wingbeat amplitude over a wide dynamic range via a population code. Using two-photon functional imaging, we show that DNg02 cells are responsive to visual motion during flight in a manner that would make them well suited to continuously regulate bilateral changes in wing kinematics. Collectively, we have identified a critical set of descending neurons that provides the sensitivity and dynamic range required for flight control.

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    11/17/20 | Multi-regional circuits underlying visually guided decision-making in Drosophila.
    Cheong H, Siwanowicz I, Card GM
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2020 Nov 17;65:77-87. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2020.10.010

    Visually guided decision-making requires integration of information from distributed brain areas, necessitating a brain-wide approach to examine its neural mechanisms. New tools in Drosophila melanogaster enable circuits spanning the brain to be charted with single cell-type resolution. Here, we highlight recent advances uncovering the computations and circuits that transform and integrate visual information across the brain to make behavioral choices. Visual information flows from the optic lobes to three primary central brain regions: a sensorimotor mapping area and two 'higher' centers for memory or spatial orientation. Rapid decision-making during predator evasion emerges from the spike timing dynamics in parallel sensorimotor cascades. Goal-directed decisions may occur through memory, navigation and valence processing in the central complex and mushroom bodies.

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    02/28/19 | Neural basis for looming size and velocity encoding in the Drosophila giant fiber escape pathway.
    Ache JM, Polsky J, Alghailani S, Parekh R, Breads P, Peek MY, Bock DD, von Reyn CR, Card GM
    Current Biology : CB. 2019 Feb 28;29(6):1073. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.079

    Identified neuron classes in vertebrate cortical [1-4] and subcortical [5-8] areas and invertebrate peripheral [9-11] and central [12-14] brain neuropils encode specific visual features of a panorama. How downstream neurons integrate these features to control vital behaviors, like escape, is unclear [15]. In Drosophila, the timing of a single spike in the giant fiber (GF) descending neuron [16-18] determines whether a fly uses a short or long takeoff when escaping a looming predator [13]. We previously proposed that GF spike timing results from summation of two visual features whose detection is highly conserved across animals [19]: an object's subtended angular size and its angular velocity [5-8, 11, 20, 21]. We attributed velocity encoding to input from lobula columnar type 4 (LC4) visual projection neurons, but the size-encoding source remained unknown. Here, we show that lobula plate/lobula columnar, type 2 (LPLC2) visual projection neurons anatomically specialized to detect looming [22] provide the entire GF size component. We find LPLC2 neurons to be necessary for GF-mediated escape and show that LPLC2 and LC4 synapse directly onto the GF via reconstruction in a fly brain electron microscopy (EM) volume [23]. LPLC2 silencing eliminates the size component of the GF looming response in patch-clamp recordings, leaving only the velocity component. A model summing a linear function of angular velocity (provided by LC4) and a Gaussian function of angular size (provided by LPLC2) replicates GF looming response dynamics and predicts the peak response time. We thus present an identified circuit in which information from looming feature-detecting neurons is combined by a common post-synaptic target to determine behavioral output.

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    06/26/18 | The functional organization of descending sensory-motor pathways in Drosophila.
    Namiki S, Dickinson MH, Wong AM, Korff W, Card GM
    eLife. 2018 Jun 26:e34272. doi: 10.7554/eLife.34272

    In most animals, the brain controls the body via a set of descending neurons (DNs) that traverse the neck. DN activity activates, maintains or modulates locomotion and other behaviors. Individual DNs have been well-studied in species from insects to primates, but little is known about overall connectivity patterns across the DN population. We systematically investigated DN anatomy in Drosophila melanogaster and created over 100 transgenic lines targeting individual cell types. We identified roughly half of all Drosophila DNs and comprehensively map connectivity between sensory and motor neuropils in the brain and nerve cord, respectively. We find the nerve cord is a layered system of neuropils reflecting the fly's capability for two largely independent means of locomotion -- walking and flight -- using distinct sets of appendages. Our results reveal the basic functional map of descending pathways in flies and provide tools for systematic interrogation of neural circuits.

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    07/13/17 | Mapping the neural substrates of behavior.
    Robie AA, Hirokawa J, Edwards AW, Umayam LA, Lee A, Phillips ML, Card GM, Korff W, Rubin GM, Simpson JH, Reiser MB, Branson KM
    Cell. 2017-07-13;170(2):393-406. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.06.032

    Assigning behavioral functions to neural structures has long been a central goal in neuroscience and is a necessary first step toward a circuit-level understanding of how the brain generates behavior. Here, we map the neural substrates of locomotion and social behaviors for Drosophila melanogaster using automated machine-vision and machine-learning techniques. From videos of 400,000 flies, we quantified the behavioral effects of activating 2,204 genetically targeted populations of neurons. We combined a novel quantification of anatomy with our behavioral analysis to create brain-behavior correlation maps, which are shared as browsable web pages and interactive software. Based on these maps, we generated hypotheses of regions of the brain causally related to sensory processing, locomotor control, courtship, aggression, and sleep. Our maps directly specify genetic tools to target these regions, which we used to identify a small population of neurons with a role in the control of walking.

    •We developed machine-vision methods to broadly and precisely quantify fly behavior•We measured effects of activating 2,204 genetically targeted neuronal populations•We created whole-brain maps of neural substrates of locomotor and social behaviors•We created resources for exploring our results and enabling further investigation

    Machine-vision analyses of large behavior and neuroanatomy data reveal whole-brain maps of regions associated with numerous complex behaviors.

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