Bilateral olfactory sensory input enhances chemotaxis behavior

Nat Neurosci. 2008 Feb;11(2):187-99. doi: 10.1038/nn2031. Epub 2007 Dec 23.


Neural comparisons of bilateral sensory inputs are essential for visual depth perception and accurate localization of sounds in space. All animals, from single-cell prokaryotes to humans, orient themselves in response to environmental chemical stimuli, but the contribution of spatial integration of neural activity in olfaction remains unclear. We investigated this problem in Drosophila melanogaster larvae. Using high-resolution behavioral analysis, we studied the chemotaxis behavior of larvae with a single functional olfactory neuron on either the left or right side of the head, allowing us to examine unilateral or bilateral olfactory input. We developed new spectroscopic methods to create stable odorant gradients in which odor concentrations were experimentally measured. In these controlled environments, we observed that a single functional neuron provided sufficient information to permit larval chemotaxis. We found additional evidence that the overall accuracy of navigation is enhanced by the increase in the signal-to-noise ratio conferred by bilateral sensory input.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Chemotaxis / genetics
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Larva
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / methods
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Drosophila Proteins