Fully Automated Leg Movement Tracking in Freely Moving Insects using Feature Learning Leg Segmentation and Tracking (FLLIT)

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


The Drosophila model has been invaluable for the study of neurological function and for understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie neurodegeneration. While fly techniques for the manipulation and study of neuronal subsets have grown increasingly sophisticated, the richness of the resultant behavioral phenotypes has not been captured at a similar detail. To be able to study subtle fly leg movements for comparison amongst mutants requires the ability to automatically measure and quantify high-speed and rapid leg movements. Hence, we developed a machine-learning algorithm for automated leg claw tracking in freely walking flies, Feature Learning-based Limb segmentation and Tracking (FLLIT). Unlike most deep learning methods, FLLIT is fully automated and generates its own training sets without a need for user annotation, using morphological parameters built into the learning algorithm. This article describes an in depth protocol for carrying out gait analysis using FLLIT. It details the procedures for camera setup, arena construction, video recording, leg segmentation and leg claw tracking. It also gives an overview of the data produced by FLLIT, which includes raw tracked body and leg positions in every video frame, 20 gait parameters, 5 plots and a tracked video. To demonstrate the use of FLLIT, we quantify relevant diseased gait parameters in a fly model of Spinocerebellar ataxia 3.