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Local and global motion preferences in descending neurons of the fly

Journal of Comparative Physiology A
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1007/s00359-009-0481-0
  • Original Paper


For a moving animal, optic flow is an important source of information about its ego-motion. In flies, the processing of optic flow is performed by motion sensitive tangential cells in the lobula plate. Amongst them, cells of the vertical system (VS cells) have receptive fields with similarities to optic flows generated during rotations around different body axes. Their output signals are further processed by pre-motor descending neurons. Here, we investigate the local motion preferences of two descending neurons called descending neurons of the ocellar and vertical system (DNOVS1 and DNOVS2). Using an LED arena subtending 240° × 95° of visual space, we mapped the receptive fields of DNOVS1 and DNOVS2 as well as those of their presynaptic elements, i.e. VS cells 1–10 and V2. The receptive field of DNOVS1 can be predicted in detail from the receptive fields of those VS cells that are most strongly coupled to the cell. The receptive field of DNOVS2 is a combination of V2 and VS cells receptive fields. Predicting the global motion preferences from the receptive field revealed a linear spatial integration in DNOVS1 and a superlinear spatial integration in DNOVS2. In addition, the superlinear integration of V2 output is necessary for DNOVS2 to differentiate between a roll rotation and a lift translation of the fly.

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