Imaging neural activity in the ventral nerve cord of behaving adult Drosophila

Chin Lin Chen, Laura Hermans, Meera C. Viswanathan, Denis Fortun, Florian Aymanns, Michael Unser, Anthony Cammarato, Michael H. Dickinson, Pavan Ramdya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


To understand neural circuits that control limbs, one must measure their activity during behavior. Until now this goal has been challenging, because limb premotor and motor circuits have been largely inaccessible for large-scale recordings in intact, moving animals—a constraint that is true for both vertebrate and invertebrate models. Here, we introduce a method for 2-photon functional imaging from the ventral nerve cord (VNC) of behaving adult Drosophila melanogaster. We use this method to reveal patterns of activity across nerve cord populations during grooming and walking and to uncover the functional encoding of moonwalker ascending neurons (MANs), moonwalker descending neurons (MDNs), and a previously uncharacterized class of locomotion-associated A1 descending neurons. Finally, we develop a genetic reagent to destroy the indirect flight muscles and to facilitate experimental access to the VNC. Taken together, these approaches enable the direct investigation of circuits associated with complex limb movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4390
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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