Neuron. 2020 Aug 12:S0896-6273(20)30576-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.07.032. Online ahead of print.
An animal at rest or engaged in stationary behaviors can instantaneously initiate goal-directed walking. How descending brain inputs trigger rapid transitions from a non-walking state to an appropriate walking state is unclear. Here, we identify two neuronal types, P9 and BPN, in the Drosophila brain that, upon activation, initiate and maintain two distinct coordinated walking patterns. P9 drives forward walking with ipsilateral turning, receives inputs from central courtship-promoting neurons and visual projection neurons, and is necessary for a male to pursue a female during courtship. In contrast, BPN drives straight, forward walking and is not required during courtship. BPN is instead recruited during and required for fast, straight, forward walking bouts. Thus, this study reveals separate brain pathways for object-directed walking and fast, straight, forward walking, providing insight into how the brain initiates context-appropriate walking programs.