Optimized connectome architecture for sensory-motor integration

Netw Neurosci. 2017 Dec 1;1(4):415-430. doi: 10.1162/NETN_a_00022. eCollection Winter 2018.


The intricate connectivity patterns of neural circuits support a wide repertoire of communication processes and functional interactions. Here we systematically investigate how neural signaling is constrained by anatomical connectivity in the mesoscale Drosophila (fruit fly) brain network. We use a spreading model that describes how local perturbations, such as external stimuli, trigger global signaling cascades that spread through the network. Through a series of simple biological scenarios we demonstrate that anatomical embedding potentiates sensory-motor integration. We find that signal spreading is faster from nodes associated with sensory transduction (sensors) to nodes associated with motor output (effectors). Signal propagation was accelerated if sensor nodes were activated simultaneously, suggesting a topologically mediated synergy among sensors. In addition, the organization of the network increases the likelihood of convergence of multiple cascades towards effector nodes, thereby facilitating integration prior to motor output. Moreover, effector nodes tend to coactivate more frequently than other pairs of nodes, suggesting an anatomically enhanced coordination of motor output. Altogether, our results show that the organization of the mesoscale Drosophila connectome imparts privileged, behaviorally relevant communication patterns among sensors and effectors, shaping their capacity to collectively integrate information.

Keywords: Brain; Connectome; Drosophila; Spreading.