Date: April 12, 2019. 12:30
Location: CCU Seminar Room
Title: Neural mechanisms of leg proprioception and motor control in Drosophila.
Affiliation: University of Washington
Animals rely on an internal sense of body position and movement to effectively control motor behavior. This sense of proprioception is mediated by diverse populations of internal mechanosensory neurons distributed throughout the body.
My lab is trying to understand how proprioceptive stimuli are detected by sensory neurons, integrated and transformed in central circuits, and used to guide motor output. We approach these questions using genetic tools, in vivo two-photon imaging, and patch-clamp electrophysiology in Drosophila. We recently found that the axons of fly leg proprioceptors are organized into distinct functional projections that contain topographic representations of specific kinematic features: one group of axons encodes tibia position, another encodes movement direction, and a third encodes bidirectional movement and vibration frequency. Whole-cell recordings from downstream neurons reveal that position, movement, and directional information remain segregated in central circuits. These feedback signals then converge upon motor neurons that control leg muscles.
Overall, our findings reveal how a low-dimensional stimulus – the angle of a single leg joint – is encoded by a diverse population of mechanosensory neurons. Specific proprioceptive parameters are initially processed by parallel pathways, but are ultimately integrated to influence motor output. This architecture may help to maximize information transmission, processing speed, and robustness, which are critical for feedback control of the limbs during adaptive locomotion.