It's my pleasure to invite you to the next Transatlantic Systems Neuroscience Seminar after a winter (Poland) and summer (Argentina) break! It will be held on Wednesday, Feb 3rd, 3:30 PM Polish time (9:30 AM EST).
Our guest will be Marta Moita (Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown), with a talk entitled Safety in numbers: how animals use motion of others as threat or safety cues.
The password is nol1917.
Our work concerns the general problem of adaptive behaviour in response to predatory threats, and of the neural mechanisms underlying a choice between strategies. When faced with a threat, an animal must decide whether to freeze, reducing its chances of being noticed, or to flee to the safety of a refuge. Animals from fish to primates choose between these two alternatives when confronted by an attacking predator, a choice that largely depends on the context in which the threat occurs. Recent work has made strides identifying the pre-motor circuits, and their inputs, which control freezing behaviour in rodents, but how contextual information is integrated to guide this choice is still far from understood. The social environment is a potent contextual modulator of defensive behaviours of animals in a group. Indeed, anti-predation strategies are believed to be a major driving force for the evolution of sociality. We recently found that fruit flies in response to visual looming stimuli, simulating a large object on collision course, make rapid freeze/flee choices accompanied by lasting changes in the fly’s internal state, reflected in altered cardiac activity. In this talk, I will discuss our work on how flies process contextual cues, focusing on the social environment, to guide their behavioural response to a threat. We have identified a social safety cue, resumption of activity, and visual projection neurons involved in processing this cue. Given the knowledge regarding sensory detection of looming threats and descending neuron involved in the expression of freezing, we are now in a unique position to understand how information about a threat is integrated with cues from the social environment to guide the choice of whether to freeze.