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Dynamic encoding of perception, memory and movement in a C. elegans chemotaxis circuit

Linjiao Luo, Quan Wen, Jing Ren, Michael Hendricks, Marc Gershow, Yuqi Qin, Joel Greenwood, Edward Soucy, Mason Klein, Heidi Smith-Parker, Ana Calvo, Daniel Colon-Ramos, Aravinthan Samuel and Yun Zhang

Working Paper from Harvard University OpenScholar

Abstract: Brain circuits endow behavioral flexibility. Here, we study circuits encoding flexible 26 chemotaxis in C. elegans, where the animal navigates up or down NaCl gradients (positive or negative chemotaxis) to reach the salt concentration of previous growth (the setpoint). The ASER sensory neuron mediates positive and negative chemotaxis by regulating the frequency and direction of reorientation movements in response to salt gradients. Both salt gradients and setpoint memory are encoded in ASER temporal activity patterns. Distinct temporal activity patterns in interneurons immediately downstream of ASER encode chemotactic movement decisions. Different interneuron combinations regulate positive vs. negative chemotaxis. We conclude that sensorimotor pathways are segregated immediately after the primary sensory neuron in the chemotaxis circuit, and sensory representation is rapidly transformed to motor representation at the first interneuron layer. Our study reveals compact encoding of perception, memory, and locomotion in an experience dependent navigational behavior in C. elegans.

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