Publications by Year: 2021

Eschbach, C., et al. Circuits for integrating learned and innate valences in the insect brain. eLife 10, e62567 (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Animal behavior is shaped both by evolution and by individual experience. Parallel brain pathways encode innate and learned valences of cues, but the way in which they are integrated during action-selection is not well understood. We used electron microscopy to comprehensively map with synaptic resolution all neurons downstream of all mushroom body (MB) output neurons (encoding learned valences) and characterized their patterns of interaction with lateral horn (LH) neurons (encoding innate valences) in \textitDrosophila larva. The connectome revealed multiple \textitconvergence neuron types that receive convergent MB and LH inputs. A subset of these receives excitatory input from positive-valence MB and LH pathways and inhibitory input from negative-valence MB pathways. We confirmed functional connectivity from LH and MB pathways and behavioral roles of two of these neurons. These neurons encode integrated odor value and bidirectionally regulate turning. Based on this, we speculate that learning could potentially skew the balance of excitation and inhibition onto these neurons and thereby modulate turning. Together, our study provides insights into the circuits that integrate learned and innate valences to modify behavior.
Witvliet, D., et al. Connectomes across development reveal principles of brain maturation. Nature 596, 257–261 (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
From birth to adulthood, an animal’s nervous system changes as its body grows and its behaviours mature. The form and extent of circuit remodelling across the connectome is unknown. We used serial-section electron microscopy to reconstruct the full brain of eight isogenic C. elegans individuals across postnatal stages to learn how it changes with age. The overall geometry of the brain is preserved from birth to adulthood. Upon this constant scaffold, substantial changes in chemical synaptic connectivity emerge. Comparing connectomes among individuals reveals substantial connectivity differences that make each brain partly unique. Comparing connectomes across maturation reveals consistent wiring changes between different neurons. These changes alter the strength of existing connections and create new connections. Collective changes in the network alter information processing. Over development, the central decision-making circuitry is maintained whereas sensory and motor pathways substantially remodel. With age, the brain progressively becomes more feedforward and discernibly modular. Developmental connectomics reveals principles that underlie brain maturation.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
Vogt, K., et al. Internal state configures olfactory behavior and early sensory processing in Drosophila larvae. Science Advances 7, 1, (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Animals exhibit different behavioral responses to the same sensory cue depending on their internal state at a given moment. How and where in the brain are sensory inputs combined with state information to select an appropriate behavior? Here, we investigate how food deprivation affects olfactory behavior in Drosophila larvae. We find that certain odors repel well-fed animals but attract food-deprived animals and that feeding state flexibly alters neural processing in the first olfactory center, the antennal lobe. Hunger differentially modulates two output pathways required for opposing behavioral responses. Upon food deprivation, attraction-mediating uniglomerular projection neurons show elevated odor-evoked activity, whereas an aversion-mediating multiglomerular projection neuron receives odor-evoked inhibition. The switch between these two pathways is regulated by the lone serotonergic neuron in the antennal lobe, CSD. Our findings demonstrate how flexible behaviors can arise from state-dependent circuit dynamics in an early sensory processing center.
Susoy, V., et al. Natural sensory context drives diverse brain-wide activity during C. elegans mating. Cell 184, 20, P5122-5137.E17 (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Natural goal-directed behaviors often involve complex sequences of many stimulus-triggered components. Understanding how brain circuits organize such behaviors requires mapping the interactions between an animal, its environment, and its nervous system. Here, we use continuous brain-wide neuronal imaging to study the full performance of mating by the C. elegans male. We show that as each mating unfolds in its own sequence of component behaviors, the brain operates similarly between instances of each component, but distinctly between different components. When the full sensory and behavioral context is taken into account, unique roles emerge for each neuron. Functional correlations between neurons are not fixed, but change with behavioral dynamics. From the contribution of individual neurons to circuits, our study shows how diverse brain-wide dynamics emerge from the integration of sensory perception and motor actions within their natural context.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
Ji, N., et al. Corollary discharge promotes a sustained motor state in a neural circuit for navigation. eLife 10, e68848 (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Animals exhibit behavioral and neural responses that persist on longer timescales than transient or fluctuating stimulus inputs. Here, we report that \textitCaenorhabditis elegans uses feedback from the motor circuit to a sensory processing interneuron to sustain its motor state during thermotactic navigation. By imaging circuit activity in behaving animals, we show that a principal postsynaptic partner of the AFD thermosensory neuron, the AIY interneuron, encodes both temperature and motor state information. By optogenetic and genetic manipulation of this circuit, we demonstrate that the motor state representation in AIY is a corollary discharge signal. RIM, an interneuron that is connected with premotor interneurons, is required for this corollary discharge. Ablation of RIM eliminates the motor representation in AIY, allows thermosensory representations to reach downstream premotor interneurons, and reduces the animal’s ability to sustain forward movements during thermotaxis. We propose that feedback from the motor circuit to the sensory processing circuit underlies a positive feedback mechanism to generate persistent neural activity and sustained behavioral patterns in a sensorimotor transformation.
Hernandez-Nunez, L., et al. Synchronous and opponent thermosensors use flexible cross-inhibition to orchestrate thermal homeostasis. Science Advances 7, 35, (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Body temperature homeostasis is an essential function that relies upon the integration of the outputs from multiple classes of cooling- and warming-responsive cells. The computations that integrate these diverse outputs to control body temperature are not understood. Here we discover a new set of Warming Cells (WCs), and show that the outputs of these WCs and previously described Cooling Cells (CCs1) are combined in a cross-inhibition computation to drive thermal homeostasis in larval Drosophila. We find that WCs and CCs are opponent sensors that operate in synchrony above, below, and near the homeostatic set-point, with WCs consistently activated by warming and inhibited by cooling, and CCs the converse. Molecularly, these opponent sensors rely on overlapping combinations of Ionotropic Receptors to detect temperature changes: Ir68a, Ir93a, and Ir25a for WCs; Ir21a, Ir93a, and Ir25a for CCs. Using a combination of optogenetics, sensory receptor mutants, and quantitative behavioral analysis, we find that the larva uses flexible cross-inhibition of WC and CC outputs to locate and stay near the homeostatic set-point. Balanced cross-inhibition near the set-point suppresses any directed movement along temperature gradients. Above the set-point, WCs mediate avoidance to warming while cross-inhibiting avoidance to cooling. Below the set-point, CCs mediate avoidance to cooling while cross-inhibiting avoidance to warming. Our results demonstrate how flexible cross-inhibition between warming and cooling pathways can orchestrate homeostatic thermoregulation.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.