The authors present a novel paradigm for studying visual responses in Drosophila. An eight-level choice maze was found to reliably segregate fly populations according to their responses to moving stripes displayed on a computer screen. Visual responsiveness was robust in wild-type flies, and performance depended on salience effects such as stimulus color and speed. Analysis of individual fly choices in the maze revealed that stereotypy, or choice persistence, contributed significantly to a strain's performance. On the basis of these observations, the authors bred wild-type flies for divergent visual phenotypes by selecting individual flies displaying extreme stereotypy. Selected flies alternated less often in the sequential choice maze than unselected flies, showing that stereotypy could evolve across generations. The authors found that selection for increased stereotypy impaired flies' responsiveness to competing stimuli in tests for attention-like behavior in the maze. Visual selective attention was further investigated by electrophysiology, and it was found that increased stereotypy also impaired responsiveness to competing stimuli at the level of brain activity. Combined results present a comprehensive approach to studying visual responses in Drosophila, and show that behavioral performance involves attention-like processes that are variable among individuals and thus sensitive to artificial selection.
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