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2 Publications

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    07/10/13 | Contributions of the 12 neuron classes in the fly lamina to motion vision.
    Tuthill JC, Nern A, Stephen L. Holtz , Rubin GM, Reiser MB
    Neuron. 07/2013;79:128-140. doi:

    Motion detection is a fundamental neural computation performed by many sensory systems. In the fly, local motion computation is thought to occur within the first two layers of the visual system, the lamina and medulla. We constructed specific genetic driver lines for each of the 12 neuron classes in the lamina. We then depolarized and hyperpolarized each neuron type and quantified fly behavioral responses to a diverse set of motion stimuli. We found that only a small number of lamina output neurons are essential for motion detection, while most neurons serve to sculpt and enhance these feedforward pathways. Two classes of feedback neurons (C2 and C3), and lamina output neurons (L2 and L4), are required for normal detection of directional motion stimuli. Our results reveal a prominent role for feedback and lateral interactions in motion processing and demonstrate that motion-dependent behaviors rely on contributions from nearly all lamina neuron classes.

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    02/15/13 | Visual motion speed determines a behavioral switch from forward flight to expansion avoidance in Drosophila.
    Reiser MB, Dickinson MH
    The Journal of Experimental Biology. 2013 Feb 15;216:719-32. doi: 10.1242/jeb.074732

    As an animal translates through the world, its eyes will experience a radiating pattern of optic flow in which there is a focus of expansion directly in front and a focus of contraction behind. For flying fruit flies, recent experiments indicate that flies actively steer away from patterns of expansion. Whereas such a reflex makes sense for avoiding obstacles, it presents a paradox of sorts because an insect could not navigate stably through a visual scene unless it tolerated flight towards a focus of expansion during episodes of forward translation. One possible solution to this paradox is that a fly’s behavior might change such that it steers away from strong expansion, but actively steers towards weak expansion. In this study, we use a tethered flight arena to investigate the influence of stimulus strength on the magnitude and direction of turning responses to visual expansion in flies. These experiments indicate that the expansion-avoidance behavior is speed dependent. At slower speeds of expansion, flies exhibit an attraction to the focus of expansion, whereas the behavior transforms to expansion avoidance at higher speeds. Open-loop experiments indicate that this inversion of the expansion-avoidance response depends on whether or not the head is fixed to the thorax. The inversion of the expansion-avoidance response with stimulus strength has a clear manifestation under closed-loop conditions. Flies will actively orient towards a focus of expansion at low temporal frequency but steer away from it at high temporal frequency. The change in the response with temporal frequency does not require motion stimuli directly in front or behind the fly. Animals in which the stimulus was presented within 120 deg sectors on each side consistently steered towards expansion at low temporal frequency and steered towards contraction at high temporal frequency. A simple model based on an array of Hassenstein-Reichardt type elementary movement detectors suggests that the inversion of the expansion-avoidance reflex can explain the spatial distribution of straight flight segments and collision-avoidance saccades when flies fly freely within an open circular arena.

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