Sensory systems relay information about the world to the brain, which enacts behaviors through motor outputs. To maximize information transmission, sensory systems discard redundant information through adaptation to the mean and variance of the environment. The behavioral consequences of sensory adaptation to environmental variance have been largely unexplored. Here, we study how larval fruit flies adapt sensory-motor computations underlying navigation to changes in the variance of visual and olfactory inputs. We show that variance adaptation can be characterized by rescaling of the sensory input and that for both visual and olfactory inputs, the temporal dynamics of adaptation are consistent with optimal variance estimation. In multisensory contexts, larvae adapt independently to variance in each sense, and portions of the navigational pathway encoding mixed odor and light signals are also capable of variance adaptation. Our results suggest multiplication as a mechanism for odor-light integration.
Keywords: D. melanogaster; decision making; multi-sensory integration; neuroscience; reverse correlation; sensory systems; variance adaptation.
© 2018, Gepner et al.