Neural Orchestration of the C. elegans Escape Response: A Dissertation
AuthorsClark, Christopher M.
Faculty AdvisorMark J. Alkema
Document TypeDoctoral Dissertation
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractHow does a nervous system orchestrate compound behaviors? Finding the neural basis of behavior requires knowing which neurons control the behavior and how they are connected. To accomplish this we measured and manipulated neural activity in a live, behaving animal with a completely defined connectome. The C. elegans escape response is a compound behavior consisting of a sequence of behavioral motifs. Gentle touch induces a reversal and suppression of head movements, followed by a deep turn allowing the animal to navigate away from the stimulus. The connectome provides a framework for the neural circuit that controls this behavior. We used optical physiology to determine the activity patterns of individual neurons during the behavior. Calcium imaging of locomotion interneurons and motor neurons reveal unique activity profiles during different motifs of the escape response. Furthermore, we used optogenetics and laser ablations to determine the contribution of individual neurons to each motif. We show these that the suppression of head movements and turning motifs are distinct motor programs and can be uncoupled from the reversal. The molecular mechanisms that regulate these motifs involve from signaling with the neurotransmitter tyramine. Tyramine signaling and gap junctions between locomotion interneurons and motor neurons regulate the temporal orchestration of the turning motif with the reversal. Additionally, tyramine signaling through a GPCR in GABAergic neurons facilitates the asymmetric turning during forward viii locomotion. The combination of optical tools and genetics allows us to dissect a how a neural circuit converts sensory information into a compound behavior.
Permanent Link to this Itemhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.14038/32113
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