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Annu Rev Entomol. 2014;59:165-84. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-011613-162031. Epub 2013 Oct 18.

Organization and functional roles of the central complex in the insect brain.

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Faculty of Biology, Animal Physiology, University of Marburg, 35032 Marburg, Germany; email: ,


The central complex is a group of modular neuropils across the midline of the insect brain. Hallmarks of its anatomical organization are discrete layers, an organization into arrays of 16 slices along the right-left axis, and precise inter-hemispheric connections via chiasmata. The central complex is connected most prominently with the adjacent lateral complex and the superior protocerebrum. Its developmental appearance corresponds with the appearance of compound eyes and walking legs. Distinct dopaminergic neurons control various forms of arousal. Electrophysiological studies provide evidence for roles in polarized light vision, sky compass orientation, and integration of spatial information for locomotor control. Behavioral studies on mutant and transgenic flies indicate roles in spatial representation of visual cues, spatial visual memory, directional control of walking and flight, and place learning. The data suggest that spatial azimuthal directions (i.e., where) are represented in the slices, and cue information (i.e., what) are represented in different layers of the central complex.

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