Complex Motor Behaviour and Motor Learning

The Goal: Understanding of the neuronal circuits and principles underlying the adaptive initiation of motor programmes and the goal-oriented recruitment of groups of muscles within a given motor programme.

The Climbing Paradigm: Flies are walking on small blocks with gaps of 1 to 6 mm width. High-speed video cameras monitor the fly from above and from the side.

Phases of climbing behaviour

The Climbing Process: Different phases can be observed. After stepping into the void with both front legs and a short period of freezing, flies switch from walking to climbing behaviour. The vigour of the attempts is adapted to the width of the gap. At barely surmountable gaps flies fully engage in a combination of behavioural adaptations and reach the biomechanical limit. Contrariwise flies do not attempt to traverse insurmountable gaps. Gap-size is visually estimated.

Climbing-Defective Flies: Lines with specific inheritable defects in single aspects of climbing were isolated.

The Variable-Gap Paradigm: Gaps are widened after flies opted for climbing. Adaptations to the new situation are being studied.

The Training Paradigm: Repeated climbing can improve climbing performance on consecutive days. The neuronal underpinnings are under study.

For further details see:
Pick S, Strauss R (2005) Goal-Driven Behavioral Adaptations in Gap-Climbing Drosophila. Curr. Biol. 15, 1473-8