Neural networks in the cockpit of the fly

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2002 Jul;188(6):419-37. doi: 10.1007/s00359-002-0316-8. Epub 2002 Jun 7.


Flies have been buzzing around on earth for over 300 million years. During this time they have radiated into more than 125,000 different species (Yeates and Wiegmann 1999), so that, by now, roughly every tenth described species is a fly. They thus represent one of the most successful animal groups on our planet. This evolutionary success might, at least in part, be a result of their acrobatic maneuverability, which enables them, for example, to chase mates at turning velocities of more than 3000 degrees s(-1) with delay times of less than 30 ms (Land and Collett 1974; Wagner 1986). It is this fantastic behavior, which has initiated much research during the last decades, both on its sensory control and the biophysical and aerodynamic principles of the flight output (Dickinson et al. 1999, 2000). Here, we review the current state of knowledge about the neural processing of visual motion, which represents one sensory component intimately involved in flight control. Other reviews on this topic have been published with a similar (Hausen 1981, 1984; Hausen and Egelhaaf 1989; Borst 1996) or different emphasis (Frye and Dickinson 2001; Borst and Dickinson 2002). Because of space limitations, we do not review the extensive work that has been done on fly motion-sensitive neurons to advance our understanding of neural coding (Bialek et al. 1991; Rieke et al. 1997; de Ruyter et al. 1997, 2000; Haag and Borst 1997, 1998; Borst and Haag 2001). Unless stated otherwise, all data presented in the following were obtained on the blowfly Calliphora vicina which we will often casually refer to as 'the fly'.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Nerve Net*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / cytology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*