Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements

Kern R, Hateren JH van, Egelhaaf M (2006)
The journal of experimental biology 209(7): 1251-1260.

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Flying blowflies shift their gaze by saccadic turns of body and head, keeping their gaze basically fixed between saccades. For the head, this results in almost pure translational optic flow between saccades, enabling visual interneurons in the fly motion pathway to extract information about translation of the animal and thereby about the spatial layout of the environment. There are noticeable differences between head and body movements during flight. Head saccades are faster and shorter than body saccades, and the head orientation is more stable between saccades than the body orientation. Here, we analyse the functional importance of these differences by probing visual interneurons of the blowfly motion pathway with optic flow based on either head movements or body movements, as recorded accurately with a magnetic search coil technique. We find that the precise head-body coordination is essential for the visual system to separate the translational from the rotational optic flow. If the head were tightly coupled to the body, the resulting optic flow would not contain the behaviourally important information on translation. Since it is difficult to resolve head orientation in many experimental paradigms, even when employing state-of-the-art digital video techniques, we introduce a 'headifying algorithm', which transforms the time-dependent body orientation in free flight into an estimate of head orientation. We show that application of this algorithm leads to an estimated head orientation between saccades that is sufficiently stable to enable recovering information on translation. The algorithm may therefore be of practical use when head orientation is needed but cannot be measured.
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Kern R, Hateren JH van, Egelhaaf M. Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements. The journal of experimental biology. 2006;209(7):1251-1260.
Kern, R., Hateren, J. H. van, & Egelhaaf, M. (2006). Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements. The journal of experimental biology, 209(7), 1251-1260.
Kern, R., Hateren, J. H. van, and Egelhaaf, M. (2006). Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements. The journal of experimental biology 209, 1251-1260.
Kern, R., Hateren, J.H. van, & Egelhaaf, M., 2006. Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements. The journal of experimental biology, 209(7), p 1251-1260.
R. Kern, J.H. van Hateren, and M. Egelhaaf, “Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements”, The journal of experimental biology, vol. 209, 2006, pp. 1251-1260.
Kern, R., Hateren, J.H. van, Egelhaaf, M.: Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements. The journal of experimental biology. 209, 1251-1260 (2006).
Kern, Roland, Hateren, J. H. van, and Egelhaaf, Martin. “Representation of behaviourally relevant information by blowfly motion-sensitive visual interneurons requires precise compensatory head movements”. The journal of experimental biology 209.7 (2006): 1251-1260.
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