Drosophila Flight Initiation Detection System

Project Collaborators (sorted by Institute): 
Section on Neural Function, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, NIMH
Section on Instrumentation, NIMH
Project Brief: 

Drosophila is a widely used model organism for neuroscience research.  One topic of interest to neuroscience researchers is the flight ability in Drosophila.  Fruit flies first acquire wings at the end of metamorphosis, when they emerge from the pupal case as adults.  The first activity as adults is to expand and harden their wings, which form as compact folded structures.  Mapping the neural circuitry underlying wing expansion and understanding the interaction, if any, between wing expansion neural circuitry and the circuits regulating flight requires a better understanding when flight ability develops in the fly.  The Drosophila flight initiation detection system was designed to aid investigators in determining when adult flies first spontaneously initiate flight, and how frequently flight is initiated after the initial flight.  Establishing a baseline should allow examination of how the flight initiation and flight frequency parameters change when certain parts of the neural circuitry for wing expansion are manipulated.  The mechanical and optical design includes a uniformly illuminated arena.  The fly in the arena is recorded for long durations (e.g., >12 hours).  The acquired video is post-processed to detect the occurrence of sudden changes in the fly position.  A summary video, considerably shorter than the original video (e.g., 18 seconds, below, from an original 1-hour video), is compiled by concatenating clips of instances of sudden position changes.  This concatenation provides researchers with an efficient means of manual review and annotation.

Drosophila flight initiation detection system

A top-down view (a) and a birds-eye view (b) of the Drosophila flight initiation detection system.  The fly is placed in the glass arena surrounded by U-shaped light ‘curtain’ which provides uniform illumination throughout the arena.  The video camera and lens are positioned to capture the full view of the arena.  The video is streamed to a local PC and saved for post-processing.