Balancing in Air: What Can we Learn about Insects' Internal Control Algorithms from Their Flight?
Z. Jane Wang, Cornell University, USA

Life on wings is a delicate balancing act. To balance in air, insects not only need to generate enough lift, but also have to make subtle adjustments to their wing movement so as to stabilize themselves. These tiny changes during complex wing movement, coupled with the intricacies of neural feedbacks loops, make it difficult for us to tease out the internal control algorithms insects use to stabilize themselves. With computational simulations and analyses, we can now make predictions about how fast and how frequently a model insect must sense and act in order to stabilize itself. By relating our results to experimental findings of reaction time and neural firing patterns of steering muscles in fruit flies, we propose a candidate for neural control circuitry for self-stabilization.

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