Decoding odor quality and intensity in the Drosophila brain

Antonia Strutz, Jan Soelter, Amelie Baschwitz, Abu Farhan, Veit Grabe, Jürgen Rybak, Markus Knaden, Michael Schmuker, Bill S Hansson, Silke Sachse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


To internally reflect the sensory environment, animals create neural maps encoding the external stimulus space. From that primary neural code relevant information has to be extracted for accurate navigation. We analyzed how different odor features such as hedonic valence and intensity are functionally integrated in the lateral horn (LH) of the vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster. We characterized an olfactory-processing pathway, comprised of inhibitory projection neurons (iPNs) that target the LH exclusively, at morphological, functional and behavioral levels. We demonstrate that iPNs are subdivided into two morphological groups encoding positive hedonic valence or intensity information and conveying these features into separate domains in the LH. Silencing iPNs severely diminished flies' attraction behavior. Moreover, functional imaging disclosed a LH region tuned to repulsive odors comprised exclusively of third-order neurons. We provide evidence for a feature-based map in the LH, and elucidate its role as the center for integrating behaviorally relevant olfactory information.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere04147
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2014


  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Dendrites
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Odors
  • Olfactory Pathways
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid


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