Motion Vision Processing in Fly Lobula Plate Tangential Cells

Abstract: Flies are highly visually guided animals. In this thesis, I have used hoverflies as a model for studying motion vision. Flies process motion vision in three visual ganglia: the lamina, the medulla, and the lobula complex. In the posterior part of lobula complex, there are around 60 lobula plate tangential cells (LPTCs). Most of LPTCs have large receptive fields where the local direction sensitivity suggests that they function as matched filters to specific types of optic flow. LPTCs connect to descending or neck motor neurons that control wing and head movements, respectively. Therefore, in this thesis I have focused on the electrophysiological responses of LPTCs to gain understanding of visual behaviors in flies.The elementary motion detector (EMD) is a model that can explain the formation of local motion sensitivity. However, responses to higher order motion, where the direction of luminance change is uncorrelated with the direction of movement, cannot be predicted by classic EMDs. Nevertheless, behavior shows that flies can see and track bars with higher order motion cues. I showed (Paper I) that several LPTCs also respond to higher order motion.Many insects, including flies, release octopamine during flight. Therefore, adding octopamine receptor agonists can mimic physical activity. Our study (Paper II) investigated the effect of octopamine on three adaptation components. We found that the contrast gain reduction showed a frequency dependent increase after octopamine stimulation. Since the contrast gain is non-directional, it is likely presynaptic to the LPTC. We therefore believe that octopamine acts on the delay filter in the EMD.In the third paper we describe a novel LPTC. The centrifugal stationary inhibited flicker excited (cSIFE) is excited by flicker and inhibited by stationary patterns. Neither of these responses can be predicted by EMD models. Therefore, we provide a new type of motion detector that can explain cSIFE’s responses (Paper III).During bar tracking, self-generated optic flow may counteract the steering effect by inducing a contradictory optomotor response. Behavior shows that during bar fixation, flies ignore background optic flow. Our study (Paper IV) focus on the different receptive fields of two LPTCs, and relate these to the bar fixation behavior. In the neuron with a small and fronto-dorsal receptive field, we find a higher correlation with bar motion than with background motion. In contrast, the neuron with a larger receptive field shows a higher correlation with background motion.