Robust coding of flow-field parameters by axo-axonal gap junctions between fly visual interneurons

Complex flight maneuvers require a sophisticated system to exploit the optic flow resulting from moving images of the environment projected onto the retina. In the fly’s visual course control center, the lobula plate, 10 so-called vertical system (VS) cells are thought to match, with their complex receptive fields, the optic flow resulting from rotation around different body axes. However, signals of single VS cells are unreliable indicators of such optic flow parameters in the context of their noisy, texture-dependent input from local motion measurements. Here we propose an alternative encoding scheme based on network simulations of biophysically realistic compartmental models of VS cells. The simulations incorporate recent data about the highly selective connectivity between VS cells consisting of an electrical axo-axonal coupling between adjacent cells and a reciprocal inhibition between the most distant cells. We find that this particular wiring performs a linear interpolation between the output signals of VS cells, leading to a robust representation of the axis of rotation even in the presence of textureless patches of the visual surround.

Authors: Cuntz H, Haag J, Forstner F, Segev I, Borst A
Year of publication: 2007
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jun 12;104(24):10229-33.

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“Working memory”