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Nat Commun. 2011 Jun 14;2:355. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1352.

Neural coding in a single sensory neuron controlling opposite seeking behaviours in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Group of Molecular Neurobiology, Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan.


Unveiling the neural codes for intricate behaviours is a major challenge in neuroscience. The neural circuit for the temperature-seeking behaviour of Caenorhabditis elegans is an ideal system to dissect how neurons encode sensory information for the execution of behavioural output. Here we show that the temperature-sensing neuron AFD transmits both stimulatory and inhibitory neural signals to a single interneuron AIY. In this circuit, a calcium concentration threshold in AFD acts as a switch for opposing neural signals that direct the opposite behaviours. Remote control of AFD activity, using a light-driven ion pump and channel, reveals that diverse reduction levels of AFD activity can generate warm- or cold-seeking behaviour. Calcium imaging shows that AFD uses either stimulatory or inhibitory neuronal signalling onto AIY, depending on the calcium concentration threshold in AFD. Thus, dual neural regulation in opposite directions is directly coupled to behavioural inversion in the simple neural circuit.

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