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Dr Lin entered the field of animal locomotion from experimental physics. Ever since, he has spent over a decade training in locomotor biomechanics, soft robotics, animal behaviour modelling, and sensory neuroscience. He has so far worked with caterpillars, pigeons, dragonflies and other flying insects. His technical repertoire spans a wide area: from motion capture, material characterization, and biorobotics, to electrophysiology, neural modelling, and fieldwork for animal behaviour. Dr Lin’s lab currently uses dragonflies and damselflies as a model system, focusing on decoding the neural representation of aeroelastic phenomena, active vision for target tracking and bioinspired applications in these two topics.
Neuromechanics of insect wings
One defining feature of animal flight is the continuously morphing wings which enable efficient lift generation, agile flight control and compact wing storage. However, controlling highly deformable wings with numerous passive degrees of freedom is challenging. Flying animals solve this by combining an intricate wing architecture and a specialized wing mechanosensory system. Insect wings are a tractable model system for understanding the neural representation of wing aeroelastic states during flight. Specifically, the dragonfly has two pairs of highly deformable, independently controlled, homologous yet functionally different wings, which enable a huge repertoire of flight behaviours from gliding to hovering. We performed a comprehensive characterisation of the dragonfly wing sensory system including sensor classification, neuronal mapping, sensor distribution, structural analysis, and electrophysiological recordings. In this talk, I will review our current understanding of the insect wing mechanosensory system and share some recent progress in decoding the wing sensory signals. The integration of wing structure and sensory system is an efficient way to monitor the aerodynamic contribution from each wing in-flight. It offers a guideline for the design and control of modern morphing wing applications both in the air and water.