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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Oct 6;112(40):E5523-32. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514415112. Epub 2015 Aug 31.

Functional divisions for visual processing in the central brain of flying Drosophila.

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  • 1Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125.
  • 2Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125


Although anatomy is often the first step in assigning functions to neural structures, it is not always clear whether architecturally distinct regions of the brain correspond to operational units. Whereas neuroarchitecture remains relatively static, functional connectivity may change almost instantaneously according to behavioral context. We imaged panneuronal responses to visual stimuli in a highly conserved central brain region in the fruit fly, Drosophila, during flight. In one substructure, the fan-shaped body, automated analysis revealed three layers that were unresponsive in quiescent flies but became responsive to visual stimuli when the animal was flying. The responses of these regions to a broad suite of visual stimuli suggest that they are involved in the regulation of flight heading. To identify the cell types that underlie these responses, we imaged activity in sets of genetically defined neurons with arborizations in the targeted layers. The responses of this collection during flight also segregated into three sets, confirming the existence of three layers, and they collectively accounted for the panneuronal activity. Our results provide an atlas of flight-gated visual responses in a central brain circuit.


central complex; navigation; sensory-motor transformation; state dependence; vision

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