We are constantly learning new motor skills throughout our life. Whether riding a bicycle or playing an instrument, motor learning relies on a calibration between sensory signals and internal motor information. Saccadic adaptation, the recalibration of fast eye rotations induced by visual error signals, has helped develop key insights into the identity of circuits, and the theoretical models underlying motor learning. However, how visual signals interact with internal movement representations during motor learning remains at present underdetermined. Taking advantage of the compact brain of the fly with well characterized visual pathways, and a plethora of anatomical, physiological, and genetic tools, here we propose to study motor learning in the context of goal-directed body saccades in D. melanogaster. We will monitor changes in body saccades consistent with repetitive visual perturbations by quantitative analysis of head-fixed flight behavior in an adapted version of the classical eye saccadic adaptation paradigm. In simultaneous, we will first record and then manipulate the activity of population of neurons known to contribute to body saccades, including visual descending neurons (VDNs) and their upstream synaptic partners, which as a network integrate visual signals and self-motion information with motor commands. Together, these experiments will establish unprecedented causal relationships among neural activity, learning, and the formation of a flexible internal representation for locomotor control. The functional principles identified in this project will establish a framework that can be tested in other species and behavioral contexts, and ultimately improve our understanding of motor learning with important implications both in health and disease.
- HORIZON.1.2 - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Main Programme