Summation of visual and mechanosensory feedback in Drosophila flight control

  • Sherman A
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The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster relies on feedback from multiple sensory modalities to control flight maneuvers. Two sensory organs, the compound eyes and mechanosensory hindwings called halteres, are capable of encoding angular velocity of the body during flight. Although motor reflexes driven by the two modalities have been studied individually, little is known about how the two sensory feedback channels are integrated during flight. Using a specialized flight simulator we presented tethered flies with simultaneous visual and mechanosensory oscillations while measuring compensatory changes in stroke kinematics. By varying the relative amplitude, phase and axis of rotation of the visual and mechanical stimuli, we were able to determine the contribution of each sensory modality to the compensatory motor reflex. Our results show that over a wide range of experimental conditions sensory inputs from halteres and the visual system are combined in a weighted sum. Furthermore, the weighting structure places greater influence on feedback from the halteres than from the visual system.

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  • A. Sherman

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