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Mechanisms of early visual processing in the medulla of the locust optic lobe: how self-inhibition, spatial-pooling, and signal rectification contribute to the properties of transient cells.

Published Article
Visual neuroscience
Publication Date
PMID: 1751420


In the arthropod medulla, which is the second ganglion on the afferent visual pathway, a column of about 40 cells represents each point in space (i.e. compound eye facet). Some stages of visual processing underlying the responses of one class of cells in the locust medulla have been identified. These transient cells give very similar responses to intensity increments and decrements, and also to pulses and steps; there is no spontaneous activity and a stimulus causes one or two spikes to fire at fixed latencies. Movement, however, produces a prolonged spike discharge by successive excitation of subunits within the receptive field. One of the main features of the transient cells' responses is a self-inhibition which attenuates responses to successive stimuli at one point. This inhibition is restricted to the outputs of single receptor (rhabdom), it decays after about 100 ms, and is polarity sensitive so that stimuli of one polarity (e.g. dimming) do not inhibit responses to stimuli of the opposite polarity (e.g. brightening). The inhibition effectively alters the contrast threshold of the cells, because after adaptation with stimuli of one contrast, a modest (less than 20%) increase in contrast is sufficient to elicit an unadapted response. Transient cells are not directionally selective and there are no local spatio-temporal interactions of the kind necessary for directional selectivity. But, by analogy with the directional veto in directionally selective cells in the rabbit retina (Barlow & Levick, 1965), self-inhibition is suggested as a mechanism of non-directional motion detection. After the inhibition, there is some spatial pooling of signals which is followed by rectification. The transient cells' spiking outputs could abstract a refined subset of visual information which may encode the presence, but not the direction, amplitude, or polarity of moving object borders.

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