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2 Publications

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    12/01/07 | The role of visual and mechanosensory cues in structuring forward flight in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Budick SA, Reiser MB, Dickinson MH
    The Journal of Experimental Biology. 2007 Dec;210(Pt 23):4092-103. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.06.072

    It has long been known that many flying insects use visual cues to orient with respect to the wind and to control their groundspeed in the face of varying wind conditions. Much less explored has been the role of mechanosensory cues in orienting insects relative to the ambient air. Here we show that Drosophila melanogaster, magnetically tethered so as to be able to rotate about their yaw axis, are able to detect and orient into a wind, as would be experienced during forward flight. Further, this behavior is velocity dependent and is likely subserved, at least in part, by the Johnston’s organs, chordotonal organs in the antennae also involved in near-field sound detection. These wind-mediated responses may help to explain how flies are able to fly forward despite visual responses that might otherwise inhibit this behavior. Expanding visual stimuli, such as are encountered during forward flight, are the most potent aversive visual cues known for D. melanogaster flying in a tethered paradigm. Accordingly, tethered flies strongly orient towards a focus of contraction, a problematic situation for any animal attempting to fly forward. We show in this study that wind stimuli, transduced via mechanosensory means, can compensate for the aversion to visual expansion and thus may help to explain how these animals are indeed able to maintain forward flight.

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    07/01/07 | Dynamic properties of large-field and small-field optomotor flight responses in Drosophila.
    Duistermars BJ, Reiser MB, Zhu Y, Frye MA
    Journal of Comparative Physiology. A, Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology. 2007 Jul;193:787-99. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.06.072

    Optomotor flight control in houseflies shows bandwidth fractionation such that steering responses to an oscillating large-field rotating panorama peak at low frequency, whereas responses to small-field objects peak at high frequency. In fruit flies, steady-state large-field translation generates steering responses that are three times larger than large-field rotation. Here, we examine the optomotor steering reactions to dynamically oscillating visual stimuli consisting of large-field rotation, large-field expansion, and small-field motion. The results show that, like in larger flies, large-field optomotor steering responses peak at low frequency, whereas small-field responses persist under high frequency conditions. However, in fruit flies large-field expansion elicits higher magnitude and tighter phase-locked optomotor responses than rotation throughout the frequency spectrum, which may suggest a further segregation within the large-field pathway. An analysis of wing beat frequency and amplitude reveals that mechanical power output during flight varies according to the spatial organization and motion dynamics of the visual scene. These results suggest that, like in larger flies, the optomotor control system is organized into parallel large-field and small-field pathways, and extends previous analyses to quantify expansion-sensitivity for steering reflexes and flight power output across the frequency spectrum.

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