Insect Vision Laboratory                   


Claire Rind

Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University







Locusts are experts at avoiding collisions. They fly in swarms many millions strong without bumping into each other. We want to learn from their simple neural machinery to design a collision sensor to warn of impending collision using visual information. Locusts possess uniquely identified visual neurons that respond selectively to looming stimuli, giving the animal a warning of impending collision. The natural predators of Locusta in Africa where the locust evolved are small birds such as the fiscal shrike Lanius collaris humeralis and the carmine bee-eater Merops nubicus , pictured to the left, with pectoral diameters of 40-45mm (measurements from museum specimens). Locusta in flight are only about 100mm wing tip to wing tip. We work on understanding the anatomy, responses and development of the circuits in the locust brain that allow the locust to detect approaching objects and avoid them when in flight or on the ground.









Recent publications & links to other related websites

      Leitinger G., Masich S., Neumüller J., Pabst M.A., Pavelka M., Rind F.C., Shupliakov O., Simmons P.J., Kolb D. Structural organization of the presynaptic density at identified synapses in the locust central nervous system J Comp Neurol  520(2),  384-400 (2012).

      Rind F. C., Birkett C. L., Duncan B-J. A. and Ranken A. J. Tarantulas cling to smooth vertical surfaces by secreting silk from their feet. J Exp Biol 214, 1874-1879 (2011).

George, D.M., Rind, F.C., Bendall, M.W., Taylor, M.A. and Gatehouse, A.M. Developmental studies of transgenic maize expressing Cry1Ab on the African stem borer, Busseola fusca; effects on midgut cellular structure. Pest Manag  Sci 68, 330-339 (2011).

Yue S.  Santer, R.D. Yoshifumi Yamawaki, Y and Rind, F. C. Reactive direction control for a mobile robot: a locust-like control of escape direction emerges when a bilateral pair of model locust visual neurons are integrated. Autonomous Robots 28, 151-167 (2010).

Simmons P.J., Rind F.C. and Santer R.D. Escapes with and without preparation: the neuroethology of visual startle in locusts. J Insect Physiol 56(8), 876-83 (2010).

Rind F.C. Santer R.D. and Wright, G.A (2008) Arousal facilitates collision avoidance mediated by a looming sensitive visual neuron in a flying locust. J Neurophysiol 100, 670-680 (2008).

Santer R.D., Yamawaki Y., Rind F.C. and Simmons P.J. Preparing for escape: an examination of the role of the DCMD neuron in locust escape jumps J  Comp Physiol A 194, 69-77 (2008)

Lińán-Cembrano, .G, Carranza, L, Rind, F.C.  Zarandy, A, Soininen, M. and Rodríguez-Vázquez A. Insect-Vision Inspired Collision Warning Vision Processor for Automobiles. IEEE Circuits and Systems magazine 8(2), 6 -24 (2008).

Stafford R., Santer R.D. and Rind F. C. A Bio-inspired collision mechanism for cars: Combining insect inspired neurons to create a robust system. Biosystems 87,162-169 (2007).

Stafford R. and Rind F.C. Data mining neural spike trains for the identification of behavioural triggers using evolutionary algorithms. Neurocomputing 70, 1079-1084 (2007).

Yue S. and Rind F. C. A synthetic vision system using directionally selective motion detectors to recognize collision. Artificial Life 13, 93-122 (2007)

Stafford R., Santer R.D. and Rind F. C. The role of behavioural ecology in the design of bio-inspired technology. Animal Behavior 74, 1813-1819(2007)

Yue S and Rind F. C Collision detection in complex dynamic scenes using an LGMD-based visual neural network with feature enhancement. IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks 17, 705-716 (2006).

Santer R.D., Rind F. C., Stafford R. and Simmons P.J. The role of an identified looming-sensitive neuron in triggering a flying locust's escape J Neurophysiol 95, 3391-3400 (2006).

Yue S., Rind F.C., Keil M.S., Cuadri-Carvajo J. and Stafford R. A Bio-inspired collision mechanism for cars: Optimisation of a model of a locust neuron to a novel environment. J Neurocomputing 69, 1591-1598 (2006).

Santer, R.D., Simmons, P. J. and Rind, F.C. Gliding behaviour elicited by lateral looming stimuli in flying locusts. J Comp Physiol A 191, 61-73. (2005).

Santer R.D., Yamawaki Y., Rind F.C. and Simmons P.J. Motor activity and trajectory control during escape jumping in the locust Locusta migratoria. J  Comp Physiol A 191, 965-975, 2005.

Rind F. C.  Collision avoidance and a looming sensitive neuron: Size matters but biggest is not necessarily best. Royal Society Biology Letters (2004)

Santer R.D. Stafford R. and Rind F. C. Retinally-generated saccadic suppression of a locust looming-detector neuron: investigations using a robot locust. Royal Society Interface (2004)




In my lab we have embedded the locust collision detection circuitry in the control system of a small Khepera robot (5cm in diameter) and found that the robot using the locust circuitry can then avoid collisions when moving around an arena with coloured Duplo bricks (Blanchard et al 2000).


The “eye” of the robot has a hemispheric lense that looks down around the robot with a 360 degree field of view. A small video camera looks upward capturing the images from the lense.  We can even mimic collision circuitry in the two eyes of the locust by dividing the robot’s field of view in two. We can combine the two neural systems in a way that produces the same escape trajectory as we have measured in the locust under the same conditions (Yue et al 2010).








































Links to other websites:


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Grant  LOCUST   "LOCUST: life-like object detection for collision avoidance using spatiotemporal image processing" EU IST 2001-38097



The business case for biomimicry- collision avoidance in cars inspired by the locust looming detectors bySaskia van den Muijsenberg <>

Locust jump

Locust flight

Hawkmoth vision





Research in the public eye:


Articles featuring my research have appeared in the New Scientist April, 2000; National Geographic News 2004; BBC Radio 4 Today Programme 2011; Science Magazine 2011; National Geographic Nov 2011.  I have communicated concepts to a television audience on BBC News24 2000; BBC 1 Future World 2001; Channel 4/Discovery channel Oxford Scientific Films, Bugs, in 2003; Discovery Channel (USA) Weird Connections 2008-9, which documents the connection between blue skies research and practical applications. In 2005 I was awarded an Ig Nobel prize for my research on locust collision detectors, in particular showing the locust STAR WARS. With a team of undergraduates I demonstrated that Tarantulas secrete silk-like strands from their feet when they slip: BBC News May 2011; Discovery Channel 2011 . I have explained robotics research to a young audience at the annual Science Festival for example in "I Robot" at the Holmes Lecture series for 11-15yr olds, at Newcastle University in 2009, and, at a Science Museum exhibition in London, 2010. This year I was involved in Science Week at Leeds University, and, with Peter Simmons, I took part in the Royal Institution Christmas lectures.








 Present lab members and collaborators


Peter Simmons, Newcastle University


Rick Stafford,


Roger Santer, Aberystwyth University


Yoshifumi Yamawaki, Kyushu


Shigang Yue, Lincoln University


Gerd Leitinger, Medical University, Graz


Julieta Sztarker, University of Buenos Aires


Jeri Wright, Newcastle University


Martti Soininen, Volvo Car Corporation, Sweden


Angel Rodríguez-Vázquez, IMSE, Seville Prof. Ángel Rodríguez-Vázquez


Gustavo  Lińán-Cembrano, IMSE, Seville Gustavo  Lińán-Cembrano


 Tamas Roska, Hungrian Academy of Sciences, Computer and Automation Research Institute MTA SZTAKI, Budapest  Prof. Tamás Roska,


Ákos Zarándy, Hungrian Academy of Sciences, Computer and Automation Research Institute MTA SZTAKI, Budapest Dr. Ákos Zarándy