A Brain-wide Circuit Model of Heat-Evoked Swimming Behavior in Larval Zebrafish

Published Date: 
May 1, 2018

Haesemeyer M, Robson DN, Li JM, Schier AF, Engert F

Thermosensation provides crucial information, but how temperature representation is transformed from sensation to behavior is poorly understood. Here, we report a preparation that allows control of heat delivery to zebrafish larvae while monitoring motor output and imaging whole-brain calcium signals, thereby uncovering algorithmic and computational rules that couple dynamics of heat modulation, neural activity and swimming behavior. This approach identifies a critical step in the transformation of temperature representation between the sensory trigeminal ganglia and the hindbrain: A simple sustained trigeminal stimulus representation is transformed into a representation of absolute temperature as well as temperature changes in the hindbrain that explains the observed motor output. An activity constrained dynamic circuit model captures the most prominent aspects of these sensori-motor transformations and predicts both behavior and neural activity in response to novel heat stimuli. These findings provide the first algorithmic description of heat processing from sensory input to behavioral output.