PerspectiveDevelopmental Biology

Flipping the Light Switch

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Science  22 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6003, pp. 454-455
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197702

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Summary

The behavior of animals is flexible and can change dramatically in response to the environment, nutritional state, or even age, among other factors. However, the neural basis of how external and internal cues modify innate behavior is not clearly understood. For example, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is inherently either attracted or repelled by vinegar depending on its concentration (1). And age changes the innate light avoidance behavior of young Drosophila larvae into light preference in older larvae (2). The behavioral switch may be an adaptation that occurs as older larvae leave their food source—and thus darkness—to search for a suitable population site in the light. On page 499 of this issue, Gong et al. (3) identify two pairs of neurons in the Drosophila larval brain that control behavioral switch.