Neural mechanisms underlying target detection in a dragonfly centrifugal neuron

The Journal of Experimental Biology
Bart R H GeurtenDavid C O'Carroll


Visual identification of targets is an important task for many animals searching for prey or conspecifics. Dragonflies utilize specialized optics in the dorsal acute zone, accompanied by higher-order visual neurons in the lobula complex, and descending neural pathways tuned to the motion of small targets. While recent studies describe the physiology of insect small target motion detector (STMD) neurons, little is known about the mechanisms that underlie their exquisite sensitivity to target motion. Lobula plate tangential cells (LPTCs), a group of neurons in dipteran flies selective for wide-field motion, have been shown to take input from local motion detectors consistent with the classic correlation model developed by Hassenstein and Reichardt in the 1950s. We have tested the hypothesis that similar mechanisms underlie the response of dragonfly STMDs. We show that an anatomically characterized centrifugal STMD neuron (CSTMD1) gives responses that depend strongly on target contrast, a clear prediction of the correlation model. Target stimuli are more complex in spatiotemporal terms than the sinusoidal grating patterns used to study LPTCs, so we used a correlation-based computer model to predict response tuning to velocity and ...Continue Reading


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