November 27, 2020

A population of central complex neurons promoting orientation to airflow in Drosophila

How brain circuits convert sensory signals from diverse modalities into goal-oriented movements is a central question in neuroscience. In insects, a brain region known as the Central Complex (Cx) is believed to support navigation, but how this area organizes and processes diverse sensory cues is not clear. We recorded from genetically-identified Cx cell types in Drosophila and presented directional visual, olfactory, and airflow cues known to elicit orienting behavior. We found that a group of columnar neurons targeting the ventral fan-shaped body (ventral P-FNs) were consistently tuned for airflow direction. Silencing these neurons prevented flies from adopting stable orientations relative to airflow in closed-loop flight. Specifically, silenced flies selected improper corrective turns following changes in airflow direction, but not following airflow offset, suggesting a specific deficit in sensory-motor conversion. Our work provides insight into the organization and function of the insect navigation center.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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