In this work, Cheng Lyu, Larry Abbott and Gaby Maimon discovered a group of neurons that explicitly signals the fly's allocentric (external-world-referenced) traveling direction, a key variable for spatial navigation. They further characterized a neural circuit that illustrates how the traveling direction signal is built from heading signals and other components and analyzed this circuit theoretically. By combining anatomical and physiological analysis of eight genetically separable cell classes with modeling, they were able to extract the underlying computation performed by the system as a relatively simple 2D vector sum process, whose core principles, will hopefully help to understand similar processes in other brains.

Cheng Lyu's biography: Cheng Lyu earned his bachelor's and master degree in Physics at the Peking University in Beijing. He did his phd training in Gaby Maimon's lab at the Rockefeller University in New York, where he is interested in the neural basis for path integration in the Drosophila central complex. He is now a postdoctoral researcher in Liqun Luo's lab at Stanford, where he is studying how neural circuits are wired up precisely during development.