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Nature. 2013 Nov 14;503(7475):262-6. doi: 10.1038/nature12601. Epub 2013 Oct 9.

Feature detection and orientation tuning in the Drosophila central complex.

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1
Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 19700 Helix Drive, Ashburn, Virginia 20147, USA.

Abstract

Many animals, including insects, are known to use visual landmarks to orient in their environment. In Drosophila melanogaster, behavioural genetics studies have identified a higher brain structure called the central complex as being required for the fly's innate responses to vertical visual features and its short- and long-term memory for visual patterns. But whether and how neurons of the fly central complex represent visual features are unknown. Here we use two-photon calcium imaging in head-fixed walking and flying flies to probe visuomotor responses of ring neurons--a class of central complex neurons that have been implicated in landmark-driven spatial memory in walking flies and memory for visual patterns in tethered flying flies. We show that dendrites of ring neurons are visually responsive and arranged retinotopically. Ring neuron receptive fields comprise both excitatory and inhibitory subfields, resembling those of simple cells in the mammalian primary visual cortex. Ring neurons show strong and, in some cases, direction-selective orientation tuning, with a notable preference for vertically oriented features similar to those that evoke innate responses in flies. Visual responses were diminished during flight, but, in contrast with the hypothesized role of the central complex in the control of locomotion, not modulated during walking. Taken together, these results indicate that ring neurons represent behaviourally relevant visual features in the fly's environment, enabling downstream central complex circuits to produce appropriate motor commands. More broadly, this study opens the door to mechanistic investigations of circuit computations underlying visually guided action selection in the Drosophila central complex.

PMID:
24107996
PMCID:
PMC3830704
DOI:
10.1038/nature12601
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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