Center for Interdisziplinary Research

ZiF Workshop

Moving the Senses: From Motion Sensing to Animals in Motion

Date: 30 September - 2 October 2015

Convenors: Volker Dürr (Bielefeld, GER), Martin Egelhaaf (Bielefeld, GER), Roland Kern (Bielefeld, GER), Jens P. Lindemann (Bielefeld, GER)

Animals and Humans engage in continuous, dynamic interaction with their environment: the movements they generate cause sensory effects that, in turn, influence subsequent movements. This dynamic interaction stood at the core of the workshop "Moving the Senses: From Motion Sensing to Animals in Motion". Grouped in four sessions, 50 researchers from seven countries discussed recent experimental results on various aspects of sensed motion. In each session, one keynote speaker gave an overview of the recent advances in his field, followed by a set of shorter viewpoint talks on more specific topics.

Already the first talk demonstrated the level of insight that can be obtained by novel methodological combinations of neurogenetics and electrophysiology, when Axel Borst explained how our view of the mechanism of visual elementary motion detection (EMD) has changed throughout the past thirty years: a prime example of a mathematical model that could be grounded more and more on physiological insights, to the point where it became possible to pinpoint certain neural computations to a set of identified cells in the nervous system of a fly. The subsequent viewpoints illustrated the importance of photoreception – the initial stage of any kind of visual information processing – and its adaptations in different animal groups (Laughlin, Weckström). Another talk contrasted the ability of animals to process both wide-field motion patterns for the sake of course control, and small moving targets for the sake of goal-directed pursuit (O'Carroll). Finally, the significance of EMD models on our understanding of human perception in fine arts was illustrated (Zanker).

On the second day, the topics under focus were motion processing and the sensory control of motion. Here, Michael Dickinson presented a comprehensive vision of an integrative approach to sensory-motor control, spanning behavioural analysis, detailed monitoring of neural activity and biomechanics of the locomotory system. This was accompanied by views on the computational abilities of single identified nerve cells (Gabbiani, Nordström) and on fast computations in flying animals (Krapp, Gonzalez-Bellido). Subsequently, the discussion was broadened by addressing issues of motor learning (Strauss), attentional mechanisms (Land) and comparative aspects of motion processing in hearing (Wagner) and touch (Kretzberg, Dürr). At the end of the meeting, Martin Egelhaaf emphasised the importance of behaviourally relevant stimulus conditions in experimental analyses, showing how flying insects actively shape the pattern of visual motion seen by their eyes. In illustrating how motion cues in a natural scene may correspond to a measure of obstacle nearness, he showed how a seemingly abstract sensory reading could be of immediate behavioural relevance.

Discussions on the third day were triggered by William Warren Jr. who presented experimental evidence for and against two alternative models of internal representations of encountered space in human navigation. This was complemented by talks on aspects such as the significance of motion noise in accumulating errors in human navigation (Ernst), and on view-based representations in familiar environments (Mallot). Studies on humans were contrasted by three talks on insect navigation, covering aspects of scene recognition (Collett), the use of orientation flights for self-generated view sequences for homing (Hempel de Ibarra), and a robust model of view-based route selection (Philippides).

In summary, the workshop allowed coverage of many facets of motion sensing in human and animal behaviour, spurring discussions among researchers working on model organisms as different as flies, leeches, owls and humans, with levels of approach ranging from single neurons and small circuits to the behaviour of the intact animal: all participants had a wonderful opportunity to make sense of the others' motions in science.


Emily Baird (Lund, SWE), Norbert Böddeker (Bielefeld, GER), Alexander Borst (Planegg, GER), Elisabetta Chicca (Bielefeld, GER), Matthew Collett (Exeter, GBR), Thomas Collett (Brighton, GBR), Holk Cruse (Bielefeld, GER), Marie Dacke (Lund, SWE), Hansjürgen Dahmen (Tübingen, GER), Michael Dickinson (Pasadena, USA), Laura Dittmar (Bielefeld, GER), Jacob Engelmann (Bielefeld, GER), Marc Ernst (Bielefeld, GER), Fabrizio Gabbiani (Houston, USA), Bart Geurten (Göttingen, GER), Paloma T. Gonzalez-Bellido (Cambridge, GBR), Paul Graham (Brighton, GBR), Jan Grewe (Tübingen, GER), Natalie Hempel de Ibarra (Exeter, GBR), Thierry Hoinville (Bielefeld, GER), Vanessa Hollmann (Bielefeld, GER), Sarah Nicola Jung (Bielefeld, GER), Bernd Kimmerle (München, GER), Holger Krapp (London, GBR), Jutta Kretzberg (Oldenburg, GER), Michael Land (Brighton, GBR), Simon Laughlin (Cambridge, GBR), Hanspeter Mallot (Tübingen, GER), Hanno Meyer (Bielefeld, GER), Ralf Möller (Bielefeld, GER), Karin Nordström (Uppsala, SWE), David OCarroll (Lund, SWE), Andrew Philippides (Brighton, GBR), Klaus Reinhold (Bielefeld, GER), Ronny Rosner (Newcastle upon Tyne, GBR), Ulrich Rückert (Bielefeld, GER), Josef Schmitz (Bielefeld, GER), Axel Schneider (Bielefeld, GER), Marion Silies (Göttingen, GER), Mandyam V. Srinivasan (Brisbane, AUS), Roland Strauss (Mainz, GER), Wolfgang Stürzl (Weßling, GER), Stéphane Viollet (Marseille, FRA), Hermann Wagner (Aachen, GER), William H. Warren (Providence, USA), Matti Weckström (Oulun Yliopisto, FIN), Matthias Wittlinger (Ulm, GER), Johannes Zanker (Egham, GBR), Sabine Zanker (Woking, GBR)

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