Nov 27, 2009

Robust coding of ego-motion in descending neurons of the fly

The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Adrian WertzAlexander Borst


In many species, motion-sensitive neurons responding to optic flow at higher processing stages are well characterized; however, less is known how this representation of ego-motion is further transformed into an appropriate motor response. Here, we analyzed in the blowfly Calliphora vicina the visuomotor transformation from motion-sensitive neurons in the lobula plate [V2 and vertical system (VS) cells] onto premotor descending neurons [descending neurons of the ocellar and vertical system (DNOVS) cells] feeding into the motor circuit of the fly thoracic ganglion. We found that each of these cells is tuned to rotation of the fly around a particular body axis. Comparing the responses of presynaptic and postsynaptic cells revealed that DNOVS cells have approximately the same tuning widths as V2 and VS cells. However, DNOVS signals cells are less corrupted by fluctuations arising from the spatial structure of the visual input than their presynaptic elements. This leads to a more robust representation of ego-motion at the level of descending neurons. Thus, when moving from lobula plate cells to descending neurons, the selectivity for a particular optic flow remains unaltered, but the robustness of the representation increases.

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Mentioned in this Paper

Calliphora vicina
Space Perception
Visual Perception
Ganglia, Invertebrate
Optic Flow
Motion Perception

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