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Elife. 2018 Jun 26;7. pii: e34272. doi: 10.7554/eLife.34272.

The functional organization of descending sensory-motor pathways in Drosophila.

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Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, United States.
Division of Biology and Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, United States.


In most animals, the brain controls the body via a set of descending neurons (DNs) that traverse the neck. DN activity activates, maintains or modulates locomotion and other behaviors. Individual DNs have been well-studied in species from insects to primates, but little is known about overall connectivity patterns across the DN population. We systematically investigated DN anatomy in Drosophila melanogaster and created over 100 transgenic lines targeting individual cell types. We identified roughly half of all Drosophila DNs and comprehensively map connectivity between sensory and motor neuropils in the brain and nerve cord, respectively. We find the nerve cord is a layered system of neuropils reflecting the fly's capability for two largely independent means of locomotion -- walking and flight -- using distinct sets of appendages. Our results reveal the basic functional map of descending pathways in flies and provide tools for systematic interrogation of neural circuits.


D. melanogaster; anatomy; brain; descending neuron; neuroscience; sensory-motor; split-GAL4; ventral nerve cord

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