Innate behaviors involve both reflexive motor programs and enduring internal states, but how these responses are coordinated by the brain is not clear. In Drosophila, male-specific P1 interneurons promote courtship song, as well as a persistent internal state that prolongs courtship and enhances aggressiveness. However, P1 neurons themselves are not persistently active. Here, we identify pCd neurons as persistently active, indirect P1 targets that are required for P1-evoked persistent courtship and aggression. Acute activation of pCd neurons alone is inefficacious but enhances and prolongs courtship or aggression promoted by female cues. Brief female exposure induces a persistent increase in male aggressiveness, an effect abrogated by interruption of pCd activity. pCd activity is not sufficient but necessary for persistent physiological activity, implying an essential role in a persistence network. Thus, P1 neurons coordinate both command-like control of courtship song and a persistent internal state of social arousal mediated by pCd neurons.
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