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Object features and T4/T5 motion detectors modulate the dynamics of bar tracking by Drosophila [RESEARCH ARTICLE]



Mehmet F. Keles, Jean-Michel Mongeau, and Mark A. Frye

Visual objects can be discriminated by static spatial features such as luminance or dynamic features such as relative movement. Flies track a solid dark vertical bar moving on a bright background, a behavioral reaction so strong that for a rigidly tethered fly, the steering trajectory is phase advanced relative to the moving bar, apparently in anticipation of its future position. By contrast, flickering bars that generate no coherent motion, or whose surface texture moves in the direction opposite to the bar generate steering responses that lag behind the stimulus. It remains unclear how the spatial properties of a bar influence behavioral response dynamics. We show that a dark bar defined by its luminance contrast to the uniform background drives a co-directional steering response that is phase-advanced relative to the response to a textured bar defined only by its motion relative to a stationary textured background. The textured bar drives an initial contra-directional turn and phase-locked tracking. The qualitatively distinct response dynamics could indicate parallel visual processing of a luminance versus motion-defined object. Calcium imaging shows that T4/T5 motion detecting neurons are more responsive to a solid dark bar than a motion defined bar. Genetically blocking T4/T5 neurons eliminates the phase-advanced co-directional response to the luminance-defined bar, leaving the orientation response largely intact. We conclude that T4/T5 neurons mediate a co-directional optomotor response to a luminance defined bar, thereby driving phase-advanced wing kinematics, whereas separate unknown visual pathways elicit the contra-directional orientation response.

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