Animals display a plethora of escape behaviors when faced with environmental threats. Selection of the appropriate response by the underlying neuronal network is key to maximize chances of survival. We uncovered a somatosensory network in Drosophila larvae that encodes two escape behaviors through input-specific neuropeptide action. Sensory neurons required for avoidance of noxious light and escape in response to harsh touch, each converge on discrete domains of the same neuromodulatory hub neurons. These gate harsh touch responses via short Neuropeptide F, but noxious light avoidance via compartmentalized, acute Insulin-like peptide 7 action and cognate Relaxin-family receptor signaling in connected downstream neurons. Peptidergic hub neurons can thus act as central circuit elements for first order processing of converging sensory inputs to gate specific escape responses.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience