Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 193, Issue 7, pp 787–799 | Cite as

Dynamic properties of large-field and small-field optomotor flight responses in Drosophila

  • Brian J. Duistermars
  • Michael B. Reiser
  • Yan Zhu
  • Mark A. FryeEmail author
Original Paper


Optomotor flight control in houseflies shows bandwidth fractionation such that steering responses to an oscillating large-field rotating panorama peak at low frequency, whereas responses to small-field objects peak at high frequency. In fruit flies, steady-state large-field translation generates steering responses that are three times larger than large-field rotation. Here, we examine the optomotor steering reactions to dynamically oscillating visual stimuli consisting of large-field rotation, large-field expansion, and small-field motion. The results show that, like in larger flies, large-field optomotor steering responses peak at low frequency, whereas small-field responses persist under high frequency conditions. However, in fruit flies large-field expansion elicits higher magnitude and tighter phase-locked optomotor responses than rotation throughout the frequency spectrum, which may suggest a further segregation within the large-field pathway. An analysis of wing beat frequency and amplitude reveals that mechanical power output during flight varies according to the spatial organization and motion dynamics of the visual scene. These results suggest that, like in larger flies, the optomotor control system is organized into parallel large-field and small-field pathways, and extends previous analyses to quantify expansion-sensitivity for steering reflexes and flight power output across the frequency spectrum.


Vision Optic flow Insect flight Motor control Wing kinematics 



Left plus right (sum) wing beat amplitude


Left minus right (difference) wing beat amplitude


Wing beat frequency



We thank Dr. Larry Zipursky, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and NIH training grant T32 GM065823 for financial support. We also thank Mr. Michael Condro for performing control experiments in Fig. 1c, d. Additional funding from an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship and Whitehall Foundation grant 2006-12-10 to MF.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian J. Duistermars
    • 1
  • Michael B. Reiser
    • 2
  • Yan Zhu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mark A. Frye
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Physiological ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Howard Hughes Medical InstituteJanelia Farm Research CampusAshburnUSA
  3. 3.Howard Hughes Medical InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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