Cross-Modal Sensory Fusion for Flight Control in Drosophila

Project: Research project

Project Details


The primary purpose of the work supported by this award is to examine the fusion of multisensory signals and subsequent sensory-motor integration for the control of fly flight behavior. The central aims are 1. To determine the dependence of optomotor flight maneuvers upon variation in the spatial, temporal, and contrast structure of visual stimuli. 2. To examine the dependence of olfactory-mediated flight maneuvers upon the intensity, identity, and spatial distribution of odor cues. 3. To investigate whether multimodal behavioral responses quantitatively represent the linear sum of unimodal responses, or alternatively whether crossmodal conditions synergistically enhance the motor responses beyond those evoked by unimodal cues. State-of-the-art electronic visual virtual reality flight simulators modified with odor delivery systems will be used to examine how the motor control of precise wing kinematics is influenced by systematic variations in the intensity, identity, and spatial organization of visual and olfactory cues. Through this integrative systems-level approach a broad synthesis will be developed to push forward the understanding of how multisensory cues enhance an organism's ability to respond to key environmental stimuli that are often low intensity and spatially variable. The results should have impact well beyond the domain of Drosophila neurobiology and provide new insights for the study of sensory ecology, biomechanics, neuroethology, as well as the growing engineering field of biomimetics

This award will have the following additional education and training impacts: 1. Provide a cross-disciplinary training environment with a diversity of engineering and biological approaches to catalyze discoveries that would not have come from more traditionally specialized environments. 2. Bring at least three undergraduates representing women and underrepresented minorities into the lab through active participation in the UCLA Center for Undergraduate Research. 3. The development of discussion seminars to incoming freshman interested in pursuing a career in research science. The goal is to provide a conceptual framework - in the form of a tightly focused yet multi-faceted research program -that will entice students of Physiology, Engineering, and Molecular Biology to participate. Such a research program will offer practical hands-on opportunities to bridge the disciplines. Furthermore, several experiments have been specifically tailored to be accessible to undergraduate researchers. These undergraduates will benefit from a multidisciplinary lab that includes a molecular genetics postdoc as well as graduate students in biochemistry and neuroengineering. Finally, a yearly seminar to incoming freshman interested in scientific research will be developed, with the research program being pursued here as a case study for discussing how to actually do science - both from intellectual and practical standpoints.

Effective start/end date9/1/078/31/11


  • National Science Foundation: $500,444.00


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