Research Article

Topological and modality-specific representation of somatosensory information in the fly brain

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Science  03 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6363, pp. 615-623
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan4428

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A somatosensory map in the fly brain

The organization of sense organs and sensory brain centers shows conserved principles for many sensory modalities, even between insects and mammals. Tsubouchi et al. systematically mapped the somatosensory circuits in fruit flies. The findings revealed topological and modality-specific mechanosensory representations in the insect ventral nerve cord and brain. The authors dissected preferential responses to wing and leg movement and contributions to the control of upwind behavior that occur only when the flies are on the ground.

Science, this issue p. 615


Insects and mammals share similarities of neural organization underlying the perception of odors, taste, vision, sound, and gravity. We observed that insect somatosensation also corresponds to that of mammals. In Drosophila, the projections of all the somatosensory neuron types to the insect’s equivalent of the spinal cord segregated into modality-specific layers comparable to those in mammals. Some sensory neurons innervate the ventral brain directly to form modality-specific and topological somatosensory maps. Ascending interneurons with dendrites in matching layers of the nerve cord send axons that converge to respective brain regions. Pathways arising from leg somatosensory neurons encode distinct qualities of leg movement information and play different roles in ground detection. Establishment of the ground pattern and genetic tools for neuronal manipulation should provide the basis for elucidating the mechanisms underlying somatosensation.

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