Visual control of straight flight in Drosophila melanogaster

J Comp Physiol A. 1990 Jul;167(2):269-83. doi: 10.1007/BF00188119.


The optomotor system of Drosophila is investigated in a flight simulator in which the fly's yaw torque controls the angular velocity of the panorama (striped drum, negative feedback). Flies in the flight simulator maintain a stable orientation even in a homogeneously textured panorama without landmarks. During 'straight' flight, torque is not zero. It consists of small pulses mostly alternating in polarity. The course is controlled by the duration (and possibly amplitude) of the pulses. The system operates under reafference control. By comparing the pulses with the visual input the system continuously measures and adjusts the efficacy of the torque output. The comparison, however, is not between angular velocity and yaw torque but, instead, between visual acceleration and pretorque, the first time derivative of torque. For comparison, the system first computes a cross-correlation. If the correlation coefficient is above a certain threshold the system calculates the external gain and adjusts its internal gain so as to keep the total gain constant. With the correlation coefficient below threshold, however, the system keeps the internal gain low despite the infinitely small external gain. We propose that for a reafferent optomotor system the coupling coefficient and the correlation coefficient of pretorque and visual acceleration are more relevant than the distinction between exafference and reafference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*