Object tracking in motion-blind flies

Nat Neurosci. 2013 Jun;16(6):730-8. doi: 10.1038/nn.3386. Epub 2013 Apr 28.


Different visual features of an object, such as its position and direction of motion, are important elements for animal orientation, but the neural circuits extracting them are generally not well understood. We analyzed this problem in Drosophila, focusing on two well-studied behaviors known as optomotor response and fixation response. In the neural circuit controlling the optomotor response, columnar T4 and T5 cells are thought to be crucial. We found that blocking T4 and T5 cells resulted in a complete loss of the optomotor response. Nevertheless, these flies were still able to fixate a black bar, although at a reduced performance level. Further analysis revealed that flies in which T4 and T5 cells were blocked possess an intact position circuit that is implemented in parallel to the motion circuit; the optomotor response is exclusively controlled by the motion circuit, whereas the fixation response is supported by both the position and the motion circuit.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Female
  • Locomotion / genetics*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Visual Perception / genetics*