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Three-dimensional shape and velocity changes affect responses of a locust visual interneuron to approaching objects [RESEARCH ARTICLE]



Tarquin P. Stott, Erik G. N. Olson, Rachel H. Parkinson, and John R. Gray

Adaptive collision avoidance behaviours require accurate detection of complex spatiotemporal properties of an object approaching in an animal’s natural, three-dimensional environment. Within the locust, the lobula giant movement detector and its postsynaptic partner, the descending contralateral movement detector (DCMD), respond robustly to images that emulate an approaching two-dimensional object and exhibit firing rate modulation correlated with changes in object trajectory. It is not known how this pathway responds to visual expansion of a three-dimensional object or an approaching object that changes velocity, both of which represent natural stimuli. We compared DCMD responses with images that emulate the approach of a sphere with those elicited by a two-dimensional disc. A sphere evoked later peak firing and decreased sensitivity to the ratio of the half size of the object to the approach velocity, resulting in an increased threshold subtense angle required to generate peak firing. We also presented locusts with an approaching sphere that decreased or increased in velocity. A velocity decrease resulted in transition-associated peak firing followed by a firing rate increase that resembled the response to a constant, slower velocity. A velocity increase resulted in an earlier increase in the firing rate that was more pronounced with an earlier transition. These results further demonstrate that this pathway can provide motor circuits for behaviour with salient information about complex stimulus dynamics.

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