Neurons use two main schemes to encode information: rate coding (frequency of firing) and temporal coding (timing or pattern of firing). While the importance of rate coding is well established, it remains controversial whether temporal codes alone are sufficient for controlling behavior. Moreover, the molecular mechanisms underlying the generation of specific temporal codes are enigmatic. Here, we show in Drosophila clock neurons that distinct temporal spike patterns, dissociated from changes in firing rate, encode time-dependent arousal and regulate sleep. From a large-scale genetic screen, we identify the molecular pathways mediating the circadian-dependent changes in ionic flux and spike morphology that rhythmically modulate spike timing. Remarkably, the daytime spiking pattern alone is sufficient to drive plasticity in downstream arousal neurons, leading to increased firing of these cells. These findings demonstrate a causal role for temporal coding in behavior and define a form of synaptic plasticity triggered solely by temporal spike patterns. Temporal patterns of Drosophila clock neuron firing are sufficient to drive synaptic plasticity, impacting neuronal function and behavior.
- circadian clock
- synaptic plasticity
- temporal coding
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)