Rearing in darkness changes visually-guided choice behavior in Drosophila

Helmut V.B. Hirsch, Doreen Potter, Dariusz Zawierucha, Tanvir Choudhri, Adrian Glasser, Duncan Byers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


To test whether visual experience can affect development of visual behavior in the fruitfly, Drosophila, we measured the visually-guided choice behavior of groups of flies reared in complete darkness, compared with controls reared in a normal light/dark cycle. We used a simple visual preference test, i.e. choice among four different visual targets each consisting of vertical black lines of a particular width on a white background, using a blind testing procedure so that the individual rearing histories were not known by the tester. Both groups of flies were strongly attracted to the vertical lines; however, generally the dark-reared flies were more attracted to the wider stimulus lines than were the control flies. Control experiments in which normally reared adults were kept for several days in darkness showed that the effects of dark-rearing were not simply due to being in darkness, but depended upon the timing of the deprivation. The results indicate that the development of visual behavior can be affected by visual experience in Drosophila and thus open the possibility of using Drosophila for genetic dissection of mechanisms of visual plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-289
Number of pages9
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Drosophila Pattern vision
  • Visual deprivation Neural development
  • Visual plasticity


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