MSE Research Project Database

Insect visual systems

Project Leader: David Grayden
Staff: David Grayden, Tania Kameneva
Collaborators: Michael Ibbotson (National Vision Research Institute), Professor Srinivasan (Queensland Brain Institute)
Sponsors: Australian Research Council
Primary Contact: Michael Ibbotson (
Keywords: bionic eye design and vision; computational neuroscience; electrophysiology; neural engineering; visual processing
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences

While the human visual system is of great interest and research relating to it has direct medical value, it is also important to investigate other visual systems. In the field of robotics in recent years, a great deal of interest has been shown in copying visual designs from insects nervous systems. Insects, such as bees, achieve amazing levels of autonomous flight control. They are able to search for food sources and identify them using vision, then find their way home using sophisticated path integration techniques.

This project investigates the insect visual system, using the bee as the model animal. We have conducted research that reveals some of the elements of the nervous system responsible for the flight stability of bees while they make complex journeys to and from their food sources. We have also worked out how the insect's eyes are optimally located to detect body movements and have developed 3-dimensional models that allow this to be adapted for flying robotic vehicles. This work has been conducted in collaboration with Professor Srinivasan at the Queensland Brain Institute. The work has revealed how bees use particular colours of light to assist with achieving flight stability. Previously, the prevailing view was that such systems only used green signals from the outside environment.