Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 169, Issue 6, pp 699–705 | Cite as

Basic organization of operant behavior as revealed in Drosophila flight orientation

  • Reinhard Wolf
  • Martin Heisenberg


Operant behavior is studied in tethered Drosophila flies using visual motion, heat or odour as operandum and yaw torque, thrust or direction of flight as operans in various combinations (Fig. 1). On the basis of these results a conceptual framework of operant behavior is proposed: (1) It requires a goal (desired state) of which the actual state deviates. (2) To attain the goal a range of motor programs is activated (initiating activity, see Fig. 7). (3) Efference copies of the motor programs are compared to the sensory input referring to the deviation from the desired state (e.g. by cross-correlation). (4) In case of a significant coincidence the respective motor program is used to modify the sensory input in the direction towards the goal. (5) Consistent control of a sensory stimulus by a behavior may lead to a more permanent behavioral change (conditioning). In this scheme operant activity (1–4) and operant conditioning (1–5) are distinguished.

Key words

Operant orientation behavior Initiating activity Learning by doing Sensory-motor correlation Drosophila melanogaster 



arbitrary length unit


horizontal angular width of visual pattern




standard error of the means


yaw torque




performance index


horizontal angle between visual pattern position and longitudinal body axis of the fly


vertical angular extension of visual pattern


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reinhard Wolf
    • 1
  • Martin Heisenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Genetik und Mikrobiologie der UniversitätWürzburgGermany

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