Sensor fusion in identified visual interneurons

Curr Biol. 2010 Apr 13;20(7):624-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.01.064. Epub 2010 Mar 18.


Animal locomotion often depends upon stabilization reflexes that use sensory feedback to maintain trajectories and orientation. Such stabilizing reflexes are critically important for the blowfly, whose aerodynamic instability permits outstanding maneuverability but increases the demands placed on flight control. Flies use several sensory systems to drive reflex responses, and recent studies have provided access to the circuitry responsible for combining and employing these sensory inputs. We report that lobula plate VS neurons combine inputs from two optical sensors, the ocelli and the compound eyes. Both systems deliver essential information on in-flight rotations, but our neuronal recordings reveal that the ocelli encode this information in three axes, whereas the compound eyes encode in nine. The difference in dimensionality is reconciled by tuning each VS neuron to the ocellar axis closest to its compound eye axis. We suggest that this simple projection combines the speed of the ocelli with the accuracy of the compound eyes without compromising either. Our findings also support the suggestion that the coordinates of sensory information processing are aligned with axes controlling the natural modes of the fly's flight to improve the efficiency with which sensory signals are transformed into appropriate motor commands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diptera / cytology
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Rotation
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology