Mushroom bodies modulate salience-based selective fixation behavior in Drosophila

Eur J Neurosci. 2008 Mar;27(6):1441-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06114.x.


Mushroom bodies (MBs), one of the central brain structures in Drosophila melanogaster, are involved in several cognitive behaviors, such as olfactory learning and memory, visual context generalization, choice behavior facing conflicting cues. Attention is a cognitive behavior, and it facilitates a focus on the attended event while filtering out irrelevant events, thereby allowing more rapid and accurate reactions at a lower threshold in primates. Using the visual orientation paradigm in a flight simulator, we observed that MBs modulate salience-based selective fixation behavior, which resembles attention in primates to a certain degree. We found that the fixation ability of MB-deficient flies was significantly reduced when the contrast levels were lowered as well as when a certain amount of background noise was applied. Moreover, MB-deficient flies exhibited poor object fixation ability in the presence of an olfactory 'distracter'. Furthermore, during visual selection among multiple objects of different contrast, flies with MBs were able to 'pop-out' of the most salient object in a three-object selection paradigm. Finally, we determined that flies exhibited cross-modal synergistic integration between olfactory and visual signals during object-fixation behavior, which was independent of MBs. Taken together, our findings suggest that MBs do not contribute to cross-modal synergetic integration between olfactory and visual signals; instead, they confer sensory gain control and inhibitory gating in flies, this property allows entry of the salient signal as well as filters out background noise and irrelevant signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Mushroom Bodies / chemistry
  • Mushroom Bodies / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Perception / physiology*