Neuronal encoding of sound, gravity, and wind in the fruit fly

Eriko Matsuo, Azusa Kamikouchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster responds behaviorally to sound, gravity, and wind. Exposure to male courtship songs results in reduced locomotion in females, whereas males begin to chase each other. When agitated, fruit flies tend to move against gravity. When faced with air currents, they 'freeze' in place. Based on recent studies, Johnston's hearing organ, the antennal ear of the fruit fly, serves as a sensor for all of these mechanosensory stimuli. Compartmentalization of sense cells in Johnston's organ into vibration-sensitive and deflection-sensitive neural groups allows this single organ to mediate such varied functions. Sound and gravity/wind signals sensed by these two neuronal groups travel in parallel from the fly ear to the brain, feeding into neural pathways reminiscent of the auditory and vestibular pathways in the human brain. Studies of the similarities between mammals and flies will lead to a better understanding of the principles of how sound and gravity information is encoded in the brain. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of these principles and discuss the advantages of the fruit fly as a model system to explore the fundamental principles of how neural circuits and their ensembles process and integrate sensory information in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Apr
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Ear
  • Gravity
  • Neural circuit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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