Inhibitory feedback from the motor circuit gates mechanosensory processing in Caenorhabditis elegans

Sandeep Kumar, Anuj K. Sharma, Andrew Tran, Mochi Liu, Andrew M. Leifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


AU Animals: Pleaseconfirmthatallheadinglevelsarerepresentedcorrectly must integrate sensory cues with their current behavioral : context to generate a suitable response. How this integration occurs is poorly understood. Previously, we developed high-throughput methods to probe neural activity in populations of Caenorhabditis elegans and discovered that the animal’s mechanosensory processing is rapidly modulated by the animal’s locomotion. Specifically, we found that when the worm turns it suppresses its mechanosensory-evoked reversal response. Here, we report that C. elegans use inhibitory feedback from turning-associated neurons to provide this rapid modulation of mechanosensory processing. By performing high-throughput optogenetic perturbations triggered on behavior, we show that turning-associated neurons SAA, RIV, and/or SMB suppress mechanosensory-evoked reversals during turns. We find that activation of the gentle-touch mechanosensory neurons or of any of the interneurons AIZ, RIM, AIB, and AVE during a turn is less likely to evoke a reversal than activation during forward movement. Inhibiting neurons SAA, RIV, and SMB during a turn restores the likelihood with which mechanosensory activation evokes reversals. Separately, activation of premotor interneuron AVA evokes reversals regardless of whether the animal is turning or moving forward. We therefore propose that inhibitory signals from SAA, RIV, and/or SMB gate mechanosensory signals upstream of neuron AVA. We conclude that C. elegans rely on inhibitory feedback from the motor circuit to modulate its response to sensory stimuli on fast timescales. This need for motor signals in sensory processing may explain the ubiquity in many organisms of motor-related neural activity patterns seen across the brain, including in sensory processing areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3002280
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number9 September
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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