Sensorimotor computation underlying phototaxis in zebrafish

S. Wolf , A. Dubreuil , T. Bertoni , U.L. Böhm , V. Bormuth , R. Candelier , S. Karpenko , D.G.C. Hildebrand , I. H. Bianco , R. Monasson , G. Debrégeas

Bibtex , Full text PDF
Nature Communication, 8, 651
Published 14 Sep. 2017
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00310-3


Animals continuously gather sensory cues in order to move towards favourable environments. Efficient goal-directed navigation requires sensory perception and motor commands to be intertwined in a feedback loop, yet the neural substrate underlying this sensorimotor task in the vertebrate brain remains elusive. Here, we combine virtual-reality behavioural assays, volumetric calcium imaging, optogenetic stimulation, and circuit modelling to reveal the neural mechanisms through which a zebrafish performs phototaxis, i.e. actively orients towards a light source. Key to this process is a self-oscillating hindbrain population (HBO) that acts as a pacemaker for ocular saccades and controls the orientation of successive swim-bouts. It further integrates visual stimuli in a state-dependent manner, i.e. its response to visual inputs varies with the motor context, a mechanism that manifests itself in the phase-locked entrainment of the HBO by periodic stimuli. A rate model is developed that reproduces our observations and demonstrates how this sensorimotor processing eventually biases the animal trajectory towards bright regions.

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Imagerie calcique et comportement du poisson zèbre