Controlling airborne cues to study small animal navigation

Nat Methods. 2012 Jan 15;9(3):290-6. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1853.


Small animals such as nematodes and insects analyze airborne chemical cues to infer the direction of favorable and noxious locations. In these animals, the study of navigational behavior evoked by airborne cues has been limited by the difficulty of precisely controlling stimuli. We present a system that can be used to deliver gaseous stimuli in defined spatial and temporal patterns to freely moving small animals. We used this apparatus, in combination with machine-vision algorithms, to assess and quantify navigational decision making of Drosophila melanogaster larvae in response to ethyl acetate (a volatile attractant) and carbon dioxide (a gaseous repellant).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemotactic Factors / administration & dosage*
  • Cues*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers / veterinary*
  • Spatial Behavior / drug effects
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Chemotactic Factors