In insects, visual information is processed in the optic lobe and conveyed to the central brain. Although neural circuits within the optic lobe have been studied extensively, relatively little is known about the connection between the optic lobe and the central brain. To understand how visual information is read by the neurons of the central brain, and what kind of centrifugal neurons send the control signal from the central brain to the optic lobe, we performed a systematic analysis of the visual projection neurons that connect the optic lobe and the central brain of Drosophila melanogaster. By screening approximately 4,000 GAL4 enhancer-trap strains we identified 44 pathways. The overall morphology and the direction of information of each pathway were investigated by expressing cytoplasmic and presynapsis-targeted fluorescent reporters. A canonical nomenclature system was introduced to describe the area of projection in the central brain. As the first part of a series of articles, we here describe 14 visual projection neurons arising specifically from the lobula. Eight pathways form columnar arborization in the lobula, whereas the remaining six form tangential or tree-like arborization. Eleven are centripetal pathways, among which nine terminate in the ventrolateral protocerebrum. Terminals of each columnar pathway form glomerulus-like structures in different areas of the ventrolateral protocerebrum. The posterior lateral protocerebrum and the optic tubercle were each contributed by a single centripetal pathway. Another pathway connects the lobula on each side of the brain. Two centrifugal pathways convey signals from the posterior lateral protocerebrum to the lobula.
2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.