A brainstem integrator for self-localization and positional homeostasis

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
E. YangMisha B Ahrens


To accurately track self-location, animals need to integrate their movements through space. In amniotes, representations of self-location have been found in regions such as the hippocampus. It is unknown whether more ancient brain regions contain such representations and by which pathways they may drive locomotion. Fish displaced by water currents must prevent uncontrolled drift to potentially dangerous areas. We found that larval zebrafish track such movements and can later swim back to their earlier location. Whole-brain functional imaging revealed the circuit enabling this process of positional homeostasis. Position-encoding brainstem neurons integrate optic flow, then bias future swimming to correct for past displacements by modulating inferior olive and cerebellar activity. Manipulation of position-encoding or olivary neurons abolished positional homeostasis or evoked behavior as if animals had experienced positional shifts. These results reveal a multiregional hindbrain circuit in vertebrates for optic flow integration, memory of self-location, and its neural pathway to behavior.

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