Computational principles of adaptive multisensory combination in the Drosophila larva


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Many sensory systems have evolved to optimally combine signals from multiple sensory modalities to improve perception. While theories have been proposed to explain how this process is accomplished through probabilistic inference using large neural populations in vertebrates, how animals with dramatically smaller nervous systems such as the Drosophila melanogaster larva achieve multisensory combination remains elusive. Here, we systematically characterize larval navigation in different configurations of odor and temperature gradients with optogenetically-controlled noise. Using a data-driven agent-based model, we find that larvae adapt to the reliability of individual sensory signals, and in some cases minimize the variance of the combined signal. Besides firmly establishing that probabilistic inference directs natural orientation behaviors in the Drosophila larva, our results indicate that the exact mechanism underlying the combination of sensory information may be modality-dependent. By underscoring that probabilistic inference is inherent to insect nervous systems, our work opens the way for studying its neural implementation. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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