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Published June 15, 2008 | metadata_only
Journal Article

TrackFly: Virtual reality for a behavioral system analysis in free-flying fruit flies


Modern neuroscience and the interest in biomimetic control design demand increasingly sophisticated experimental techniques that can be applied in freely moving animals under realistic behavioral conditions. To explore sensorimotor flight control mechanisms in free-flying fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), we equipped a wind tunnel with a Virtual Reality (VR) display system based on standard digital hardware and a 3D path tracking system. We demonstrate the experimental power of this approach by example of a 'one-parameter open loop' testing paradigm. It provided (1) a straightforward measure of transient responses in presence of open loop visual stimulation; (2) high data throughput and standardized measurement conditions from process automation; and (3) simplified data analysis due to well-defined testing conditions. Being based on standard hardware and software techniques, our methods provide an affordable, easy to replicate and general solution for a broad range of behavioral applications in freely moving animals. Particular relevance for advanced behavioral research tools originates from the need to perform detailed behavioral analyses in genetically modified organisms and animal models for disease research.

Additional Information

© 2008 Elsevier. Received 25 January 2008, Revised 22 February 2008, Accepted 26 February 2008, Available online 8 March 2008. The authors thank Jérôme Frei, Marie-Christine Fluet and Martin Bichsel for their contributions to this work. Financial support was provided by the Human Frontiers Science Program, the University of Zürich (to S.N.F.), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH-0-20338-06 to N.R.), the National Science Foundation (FIBR 0623527) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-06-1-0079 to M.H.D).

Additional details

August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023