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Central complex substructures are required for the maintenance of locomotor activity in Drosophila melanogaster

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In Drosophila melanogaster, former studies based on structural brain mutants have suggested that the central complex is a higher control center of locomotor behavior. Continuing this investigation we studied the effect of the central complex on the temporal structure of spontaneous locomotor activity in the time domain of a few hours. In an attempt to dissect the internal circuitry of the central complex we perturbed a putative local neuronal network connecting the four neuropil regions of the central complex, the protocerebral bridge, the fan-shape body, the noduli and the ellipsoid body. Two independent and non-invasive methods were applied: mutations affecting the neuroarchitecture of the protocerebral bridge, and the targeted expression of tetanus toxin in small subsets of central complex neurons using the binary enhancer trap P[GAL4] system. All groups of flies with a disturbed component of this network exhibited a common phenotype: a drastic decrease in locomotor activity. While locomotor activity was still clustered in bouts and these were initiated at the normal rate, their duration was reduced. This finding suggests that the bridge and some of its neural connections to the other neuropil regions of the central complex are required for the maintenance but not the initiation of walking.

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Accepted: 21 June 1999

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Martin, JR., Raabe, T. & Heisenberg, M. Central complex substructures are required for the maintenance of locomotor activity in Drosophila melanogaster. J Comp Physiol A 185, 277–288 (1999).

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