Unlocking the secrets of social behaviors

summary: The new findings challenge our understanding of the social behaviors of fruit flies. While they are traditionally thought to rely primarily on chemoreceptors for social interactions, the visual system of Drosophila also plays a pivotal role.

By manipulating the male fruit flies’ visual feedback neurons, the researchers discovered that their social inhibitions changed, prompting the males to court with other males. This new insight could inform our understanding of social behaviors in humans, including those with bipolar disorder and autism.

Key facts:

  1. Fruit flies are thought to rely primarily on chemical cues for social interaction; New research indicates that their visual system is integrated, too.
  2. Altering GABARAP/GABAA receptor signaling in visual feedback neurons in male fruit flies affected their social behaviors.
  3. Similar genes found in the human brain control fruit fly visual neurons, providing insights into human social behaviors and some psychological states.

source: Cornell University

Male fruit flies usually don’t like each other. Socially, they reject their male mates and focus on the females that they recognize via chemoreceptors — or so the scientists thought.

New research by biologists at Cornell University indicates that the fruit fly’s visual system, not just its chemoreceptors, has a large role in its social behaviours. This work highlights the possible origin of differences in human social behaviors, such as those seen in people with bipolar disorder and autism.

The paper, “Visual feedback neurons modulate male Drosophila courtship via GABA-mediated inhibition,” was published in Current Biology on September 5th.

Many animal species use vision to regulate their social behaviour, but the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. It’s thought that vision in fruit flies is clearly used to detect and track movement, not to regulate social behaviors, but the researchers found that may not be the case.

“In our study, we found that hyperactivation of the visual system overcomes inhibition caused by chemical signals emitted by a male fly to say to the other male, ‘Well, you know, I’m another male, don’t mess with me,’” said lead researcher Nilay Yabesi, assistant professor. in Neuroscience and Behavior.

“Surprisingly, the increase in visual gain in the brain somehow overrides the inhibition of chemical senses, which attracts male flies to other males.”

The researchers found that changing GABARAP/GABAa Receptor signaling in visual feedback neurons in the male brain affected the flies’ social inhibitions. When GABARAP is destroyed in the visual system, males unexpectedly show increased courtship toward other males.

The researchers found that genes similar to those in the human brain control the visual neurons of the fruit fly. Decreased GABA signaling in the human brain has been associated with characteristics of social withdrawal in conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

“Our findings provide a promising avenue for studying how these proteins regulate social behaviors in the mammalian brain and their potential contribution to human psychological states,” said lead author Yuta Mabuchi, MD. 23.

About Social and Visual Neuroscience Research News

author: Beck Boyer
source: Cornell University
communication: Beck Boyer – Cornell University
picture: Image credited to Neuroscience News

Original search: open access.
“Visual feedback neurons are fine-tuned Drosophila Male courtship via GABA-mediated inhibition Nilay Yapici et al. Current Biology

a summary

Visual feedback neurons are fine-tuned Drosophila Male courtship by GABA inhibition


  • GABARAP is required in lamina adventitial neurons to suppress male-to-male courtship
  • Dro-GABARAAP function in latticin neurons can be rescued by human orthologues
  • Hyperactivation of Lat neurons or LC10a neurons stimulates courtship between males and females
  • Latin neurons tune male tracking during courtship via the LC10a-Fru-P1 circuit


Many animal species use vision to regulate their social behaviour. However, the molecular and circulatory mechanisms underlying visually guided social interactions remain largely unknown.

Here we show that Drosophila Orthologues of human GABAaThe receptor-binding protein (GABARAP) is required in a class of visual feedback neurons, the lamina transverse (Lat) cells, to regulate male courtship. GABARAP is a ubiquitin-like protein that maintains GABA levels on the cell surfacea receptors.

We prove that demolished gabarap or GABAa receptors In Latin neurons, their overactivation leads to male courtship towards other males.

On the other hand, inhibition of afferent neurons delays copulation by impairing the ability of males to pursue females. Remarkably, the fly GABARAP protein and the human ortholog share strong sequence identity, and the function of fly GABARAP in Latvian neurons can be rescued by the human ortholog.

Use He lives Using two-photon imaging and optogenetics, we revealed that latticin neurons are functionally connected to neural circuits that mediate visually directed courtship endeavors in males.

Our work identifies a novel physiological function for GABARAP in regulating visually directed courtship endeavors in Drosophila males. decreased GABAa The signals have been linked to social deficits seen in autism spectrum disorders and bipolar disorders.

Functional similarity between human and fly gabarap raises the possibility of a conserved role for this gene in regulating social behaviors across insects and mammals.

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