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eNeuro. 2019 Apr 15;6(2). pii: ENEURO.0423-18.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0423-18.2019. eCollection 2019 Mar-Apr.

A Computational Model of the Escape Response Latency in the Giant Fiber System of Drosophila melanogaster.

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Institute of Healthy Ageing, and GEE, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.
Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne D-50931, Germany.
Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.


The giant fiber system (GFS) is a multi-component neuronal pathway mediating rapid escape response in the adult fruit-fly Drosophila melanogaster, usually in the face of a threatening visual stimulus. Two branches of the circuit promote the response by stimulating an escape jump followed by flight initiation. A recent work demonstrated an age-associated decline in the speed of signal propagation through the circuit, measured as the stimulus-to-muscle depolarization response latency. The decline is likely due to the diminishing number of inter-neuronal gap junctions in the GFS of ageing flies. In this work, we presented a realistic conductance-based, computational model of the GFS that recapitulates the experimental results and identifies some of the critical anatomical and physiological components governing the circuit's response latency. According to our model, anatomical properties of the GFS neurons have a stronger impact on the transmission than neuronal membrane conductance densities. The model provides testable predictions for the effect of experimental interventions on the circuit's performance in young and ageing flies.


Drosophila; aging; computational model; escape response; gap junctions; ion channels

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