Navigation-specific neural coding in the visual system of Drosophila

Alex DM Dewar, Antoine Wystrach, Paul Graham, Andrew Philippides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drosophila melanogaster are a good system in which to understand the minimal requirements for widespread visually guided behaviours such as navigation, due to their small brains (adults possess only 100,000 neurons) and the availability of neurogenetic techniques which allow the identification of task-specific cell types. Recently published data describe the receptive fields for two classes of visually responsive neurons (R2 and R3/R4d ring neurons in the central complex) that are essential for visual tasks such as orientation memory for salient objects and simple pattern discriminations. What is interesting is that these cells have very large receptive fields and are very small in number, suggesting that each sub-population of cells might be a bottleneck in the processing of visual information for a specific behaviour, as each subset of cells effectively condenses information from approximately 3000 visual receptors in the eye, to fewer than 50 neurons in total. It has recently been shown how R1 ring neurons, which receive input from the same areas as the R2 and R3/R4d cells, are necessary for place learning in Drosophila. However, how R1 neurons enable place learning is unknown. By examining the information provided by different populations of hypothetical visual neurons in simulations of experimental arenas, we show that neurons with ring neuron-like receptive fields are sufficient for defining a location visually. In this way we provide a link between the type of information conveyed by ring neurons and the behaviour they support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-127
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Navigation-specific neural coding in the visual system of Drosophila'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this