Avoiding temperatures outside the physiological range is critical for animal survival, but how temperature dynamics are transformed into behavioral output is largely not understood. Here, we used an infrared laser to challenge freely swimming larval zebrafish with “white noise” heat stimuli and built quantitative models relating external sensory information and internal state to behavioral output. These models revealed that larval zebrafish integrate temperature information over a time-window of 400 ms preceding a swim bout and that swimming is suppressed right after the end of a bout. Our results suggest that larval zebrafish compute both an integral and a derivative across heat in time to guide their next movement. Our models put important constraints on the type of computations that occur in the nervous system and reveal principles of how somatosensory temperature information is processed to guide behavioral decisions such as sensitivity to both absolute levels and changes in stimulation.
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