Using Drosophila Two-Choice Assay to Study Optogenetics in Hands-On Neurobiology Laboratory Activities

Zhuo Fu, Ainul Huda, Ian F Kimbrough, and Lina Ni


Optogenetics has made a significant impact on neuroscience, allowing activation and inhibition of neural activity with exquisite spatiotemporal precision in response to light. In this lab session, we use fruit flies to help students understand the fundamentals of optogenetics through hands-on activities. The CsChrimson channelrhodopsin, a light-activated cation channel, is expressed in sweet and bitter sensory neurons. Sweet sensory neurons guide animals to identify nutrient-rich food and drive appetitive behaviors, while bitter sensory neurons direct animals to avoid potentially toxic substances and guide aversive behavior. Students use two-choice assays to explore the causality between the stimulation activation of these neurons and the appetitive and avoidance behaviors of the fruit flies. To quantify their observations, students calculate preference indices and use the Student’s t-test to analyze their data. After this lab session, students are expected to have a basic understanding of optogenetics, fly genetics, sensory perception, and how these relate to sensory-guided behaviors. They will also learn to conduct, quantify, and analyze two-choice behavioral assays.