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Object tracking in motion-blind flies - new publication by Armin Bahl

Authors: Armin Bahl, Georg Ammer, Tabea Schilling & Alexander Borst

Find the article in Nature Neuroscience.

Read the official press-release of the Max Planck Institut here.

Read an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung here.


Different visual features of an object, such as its position and direction of motion, are important elements for animal orientation, but the neural circuits extracting them are generally not well understood. We analyzed this problem in Drosophila, focusing on two well-studied behaviors known as optomotor response and fixation response. In the neural circuit controlling the optomotor response, columnar T4 and T5 cells are thought to be crucial. We found that blocking T4 and T5 cells resulted in a complete loss of the optomotor response. Nevertheless, these flies were still able to fixate a black bar, although at a reduced performance level. Further analysis revealed that flies in which T4 and T5 cells were blocked possess an intact position circuit that is implemented in parallel to the motion circuit; the optomotor response is exclusively controlled by the motion circuit, whereas the fixation response is supported by both the position and the motion circuit.

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