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Circuit for memory-based action selection

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Animal behavior is shaped both by evolution and by individual experience. In many species parallel brain pathways encode innate and learnt valences of stimuli. Furthermore, within the learning centers, opposite valences may be associated with the same cues, in parallel. How these opposing valences are integrated into an overall predicted value and used to drive a single coherent action is not well understood. In insects, the Mushroom Body Output Neurons (MBONs) and the Lateral Horn Neurons (LHNs) are thought to provide the learnt and innate drives, respectively. However, their patterns of convergence and the mechanisms by which their outputs are used to select actions are not well understood. Our recently published connectome of the entire Drosophila larval brain has revealed a complex, multi-layered network of neurons downstream of MBO Ns and LHNs and upstream of descending neurons that implements action selection. To discover the basic operational principles of this action-selection network, we have performed an optogenetic activation screen for neurons that promote distinct actions, and we have characterised the responses of these neurons to stimuli of distinct innate and learnt valances. Together, these studies reveal the circuit mechanisms allowing integration of opposing drives from parallel olfactory pathways.

This talk is part of the Computational Neuroscience series.

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