Neuromodulators, such as neuropeptides, can regulate and reconfigure neural circuits to alter their output, affecting in this way animal physiology and behavior. The interplay between the activity of neuronal circuits, their modulation by neuropeptides, and the resulting behavior, is still poorly understood. Here, we present a quantitative framework to study the relationships between the temporal pattern of activity of peptidergic neurons and of motoneurons during Drosophila ecdysis behavior, a highly stereotyped motor sequence that is critical for insect growth. We analyzed, in the time and frequency domains, simultaneous intracellular calcium recordings of peptidergic CCAP (crustacean cardioactive peptide) neurons and motoneurons obtained from isolated central nervous systems throughout fictive ecdysis behavior induced ex vivo by Ecdysis triggering hormone. We found that the activity of both neuronal populations is tightly coupled in a cross-frequency manner, suggesting that CCAP neurons modulate the faster oscillation of motoneurons. To explore this idea further, we used a probabilistic logistic model to show that calcium dynamics in CCAP neurons can predict the oscillation of motoneurons, both in a simple model and in a conductance-base model capable of simulating many of the observed neural dynamics features. Finally, we developed an algorithm to quantify the motor behavior observed in videos of pupal ecdysis, and compared their features to the patterns of neuronal calcium activity recorded ex vivo . We found that the motor activity of the intact animal is more regular than the motoneuronal activity recorded from the ex vivo preparations during fictive ecdysis behavior; the analysis of movement patterns also allowed us to identify a new post-ecdysis phase.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience