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Comparison of Encoding Properties of Campaniform Sensilla on the Fly Wing


The wing blade of the blowfly Calliphora vomitoria (L.) carries an array of campaniform sensilla which have previously been divided into slowly and rapidly adapting classes based on their responses to step indentations. In the present study, the physiological characteristics of six sensilla of these two classes are examined within a 20–400 Hz frequency range, using a noise analysis that quantifies linear and nonlinear encoding properties. Both classes exhibit a broad response maximum near 150 Hz, corresponding to the typical wingbeat frequency of the blowfly, and display rectification, limiting the spike response to a narrow portion of a stimulus cycle. The similarity in the encoding properties between the two groups is largely a consequence of the high wingbeat frequency of flies, which precludes any individual neurone from acting as a magnitude detector. Instead, during flight the campaniform neurones might act as ‘one-shot’ detectors, firing a single action potential at a precise phase of each wing stroke cycle. An array of such detectors would be capable of monitoring the passage of a deformational wave as it travels along the wing during each wingbeat.