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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Apr;22(2):216-22. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.12.010. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Smelling on the fly: sensory cues and strategies for olfactory navigation in Drosophila.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, United States.


Navigating toward (or away from) a remote odor source is a challenging problem that requires integrating olfactory information with visual and mechanosensory cues. Drosophila melanogaster is a useful organism for studying the neural mechanisms of these navigation behaviors. There are a wealth of genetic tools in this organism, as well as a history of inventive behavioral experiments. There is also a large and growing literature in Drosophila on the neural coding of olfactory, visual, and mechanosensory stimuli. Here we review recent progress in understanding how these stimulus modalities are encoded in the Drosophila nervous system. We also discuss what strategies a fly might use to navigate in a natural olfactory landscape while making use of all these sources of sensory information. We emphasize that Drosophila are likely to switch between multiple strategies for olfactory navigation, depending on the availability of various sensory cues. Finally, we highlight future research directions that will be important in understanding the neural circuits that underlie these behaviors.

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