A neural circuit for angular velocity computation.
Snider SB., Yuste R., Packer AM.
In one of the most remarkable feats of motor control in the animal world, some Diptera, such as the housefly, can accurately execute corrective flight maneuvers in tens of milliseconds. These reflexive movements are achieved by the halteres, gyroscopic force sensors, in conjunction with rapidly tunable wing steering muscles. Specifically, the mechanosensory campaniform sensilla located at the base of the halteres transduce and transform rotation-induced gyroscopic forces into information about the angular velocity of the fly's body. But how exactly does the fly's neural architecture generate the angular velocity from the lateral strain forces on the left and right halteres? To explore potential algorithms, we built a neuromechanical model of the rotation detection circuit. We propose a neurobiologically plausible method by which the fly could accurately separate and measure the three-dimensional components of an imposed angular velocity. Our model assumes a single sign-inverting synapse and formally resembles some models of directional selectivity by the retina. Using multidimensional error analysis, we demonstrate the robustness of our model under a variety of input conditions. Our analysis reveals the maximum information available to the fly given its physical architecture and the mathematics governing the rotation-induced forces at the haltere's end knob.