Parasitoid wasp venom re-programs host behavior through downmodulation of brain central complex activity and motor output

Amit Rana, Michael E. Adams, Frederic Libersat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa hunts down its host, the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), and envenomates its brain to make it a behaviorally compliant food supply for its offspring. The primary target of the wasp sting is a locomotory command center called the central complex (CX). In the present study, we employ, for the first time, chronic recordings of patterned cockroach CX activity in real time as the brain is infused with wasp venom. CX envenomation is followed by sequential changes in the pattern of neuronal firing that can be divided into three distinct temporal phases during the 2 h interval after venom injection: (1) reduction in neuronal activity for roughly 10 min immediately after venom injection; (2) rebound of activity lasting up to 25 min; (3) reduction of ongoing activity for up to 2 h. Long-term reduction of CX activity after venom injection is accompanied by decreased activity of both descending interneurons projecting to thoracic locomotory circuitry (DINs) and motor output. Thus, in this study, we provide a plausible chain of events starting in the CX that leads to decreased host locomotion following brain envenomation. We propose that these events account for the onset and maintenance of the prolonged hypokinetic state observed in stung cockroaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb245252
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Central complex
  • Cockroach
  • Descending control
  • Locomotion
  • Parasitoid wasp
  • Venom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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