A neurodevelopmental origin of behavioral individuality in the Drosophila visual system

The genome versus experience dichotomy has dominated understanding of behavioral individuality. By contrast, the role of nonheritable noise during brain development in behavioral variation is understudied. Using Drosophila melanogaster, we demonstrate a link between stochastic variation in brain wiring and behavioral individuality. A visual system circuit called the dorsal cluster neurons (DCN) shows nonheritable, interindividual variation in right/left wiring asymmetry and controls object orientation in freely walking flies. We show that DCN wiring asymmetry instructs an individual’s object responses: The greater the asymmetry, the better the individual orients toward a visual object. Silencing DCNs abolishes correlations between anatomy and behavior, whereas inducing DCN asymmetry suffices to improve object responses.