Noise-robust recognition of wide-field motion direction and the underlying neural mechanisms in Drosophila melanogaster

Sci Rep. 2015 May 14;5:10253. doi: 10.1038/srep10253.


Appropriate and robust behavioral control in a noisy environment is important for the survival of most organisms. Understanding such robust behavioral control has been an attractive subject in neuroscience research. Here, we investigated the processing of wide-field motion with random dot noise at both the behavioral and neuronal level in Drosophila melanogaster. We measured the head yaw optomotor response (OMR) and the activity of motion-sensitive neurons, horizontal system (HS) cells, with in vivo whole-cell patch clamp recordings at various levels of noise intensity. We found that flies had a robust sensation of motion direction under noisy conditions, while membrane potential changes of HS cells were not correlated with behavioral responses. By applying signal classification theory to the distributions of HS cell responses, however, we found that motion direction under noise can be clearly discriminated by HS cells, and that this discrimination performance was quantitatively similar to that of OMR. Furthermore, we successfully reproduced HS cell activity in response to noisy motion stimuli with a local motion detector model including a spatial filter and threshold function. This study provides evidence for the physiological basis of noise-robust behavior in a tiny insect brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Environment
  • Flight, Animal
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques