Grad Publication: Brad Dickerson

      Brad Dickerson of the Daniel lab had work become available online in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Subject: Manduca sexta
      Animals collect and act on spatially and temporally rich sensory information to move through complex natural environments. My research uses insect flight as a model to understand the role of sensorimotor processing in the control of animal movement. Specifically, I focus on how the nervous system extracts information about an animal’s body dynamics in controlling neuromuscular programs that accomplish agile maneuvers. An open challenge is how these animals detect the dynamics of their own bodies in addition to external sensory cues. In this regard, I am focusing on inertial and gyroscopic sensing in insect flight. I am studying how a flying insect uses this information to produce behavior robust to external disturbances through the interaction between the neurobiology of sensors embedded in sensory structures and the structure’s biomechanics.

      Flies possess gyroscopic organs known as halteres that allow these animals to detect and correct for any perturbations to the flight path. Evolutionarily derived from wings, halteres are paired, club-shaped structures located behind the wings that oscillate during flight. Aside from the literature on halteres and recent work on moth antennae, it has remained unclear how other flying insects gather information to control body dynamics. The halteres are evolutionarily derived from wings and the two possess the same sensory structures, campaniform sensilla. Thus, it is possible that the wings can encode information relevant to flight control. This paper is, to my knowledge, the first examination of this hypothesis.

Here's the paper!


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