Insects modify their behaviour depending on the feedback sensor used when walking on a trackball in virtual-reality

Taylor, Gavin J., Paulk, Angelique C., Pearson, Thomas W., Moore, Richard J. D., Stacey, Jacqui A., Ball, David, van Swinderen, Bruno and Srinivasan, Mandyam V. (2015) Insects modify their behaviour depending on the feedback sensor used when walking on a trackball in virtual-reality. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218 19: 3118-3127. doi:10.1242/jeb.125617

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Author Taylor, Gavin J.
Paulk, Angelique C.
Pearson, Thomas W.
Moore, Richard J. D.
Stacey, Jacqui A.
Ball, David
van Swinderen, Bruno
Srinivasan, Mandyam V.
Title Insects modify their behaviour depending on the feedback sensor used when walking on a trackball in virtual-reality
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
Publication date 2015-08-14
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.125617
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 218
Issue 19
Start page 3118
End page 3127
Total pages 10
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Language eng
Formatted abstract
When using virtual-reality paradigms to study animal behaviour, careful attention must be paid to how the animal's actions are detected. This is particularly relevant in closed-loop experiments where the animal interacts with a stimulus. Many different sensor types have been used to measure aspects of behaviour, and although some sensors may be more accurate than others, few studies have examined whether, and how, such differences affect an animal's behaviour in a closed-loop experiment. To investigate this issue, we conducted experiments with tethered honeybees walking on an air-supported trackball and fixating a visual object in closed-loop. Bees walked faster and along straighter paths when the motion of the trackball was measured in the classical fashion – using optical motion sensors repurposed from computer mice – than when measured more accurately using a computer vision algorithm called ‘FicTrac’. When computer mouse sensors are used to measure bees' behaviour, they modified their behaviour and achieved improved control of the stimulus. This behavioural change appears to be a response to a systematic error in the computer mouse sensor that reduces the sensitivity of this sensor system under certain conditions. Although the large perceived inertia and mass of the trackball relative to the honeybee is a limitation of tethered walking paradigms, observing differences depending on the sensor system used to measure bee behaviour was not expected. This study suggests that bees are capable of fine-tuning their motor control to improve the outcome of the task they are performing. Further, our findings show that caution is required when designing virtual-reality experiments, as animals can potentially respond to the artificial scenario in unexpected and unintended ways.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Fri, 18 Sep 2015, 21:11:38 EST by Susan Day on behalf of Queensland Brain Institute