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Linear and Nonlinear Encoding Propertffis of an Identified Mechanoreceptor on the Fly Wing Measured with Mechanical Noise Stimuli


The wing blades of most flies contain a small set of distal campaniform sensilla, mechanoreceptors that respond to deformations of the cuticle. This paper describes a method of analysis based upon mechanical noise stimuli which is used to quantify the encoding properties of one of these sensilla (the d-HCV cell) on the wing of the blowfly Calliphora vomitoria (L.). The neurone is modelled as two components, a linear filter that accounts for the frequency response and phase characteristics of the cell, followed by a static nonlinearity that limits the spike discharge to a narrow portion of the stimulus cycle. The model is successful in predicting the response of campaniform neurones to arbitrary stimuli, and provides a convenient method for quantifying the encoding properties of the sensilla.

The d-HCV neurone is only broadly frequency tuned, but its maximal response near 150 Hz corresponds to the wingbeat frequency of Calliphora. In the range of frequencies likely to be encountered during flight, the d-HCV neurone fires a single phase-locked action potential for each stimulus cycle. The phase lag of the cell decreases linearly with increasing frequency such that the absolute delay between stimulus and response remains nearly constant. Thus, during flight the neurone is capable of firing one precisely timed action potential during each wingbeat, and might be used to modulate motor activity that requires afferent input on a cycle-by-cycle basis.