Escape behaviors in insects

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Apr;22(2):180-6. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.12.009. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


Escape behaviors are, by necessity, fast and robust, making them excellent systems with which to study the neural basis of behavior. This is especially true in insects, which have comparatively tractable nervous systems and members who are amenable to manipulation with genetic tools. Recent technical developments in high-speed video reveal that, despite their short duration, insect escape behaviors are more complex than previously appreciated. For example, before initiating an escape jump, a fly performs sophisticated posture and stimulus-dependent preparatory leg movements that enable it to jump away from a looming threat. This newfound flexibility raises the question of how the nervous system generates a behavior that is both rapid and flexible. Recordings from the cricket nervous system suggest that synchrony between the activity of specific interneuron pairs may provide a rapid cue for the cricket to detect the direction of an approaching predator and thus which direction it should run. Technical advances make possible wireless recording from neurons while locusts escape from a looming threat, enabling, for the first time, a direct correlation between the activity of multiple neurons and the time-course of an insect escape behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Escape Reaction / physiology*
  • Ethology / methods
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurology / methods
  • Neurons / physiology*