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Looming detection by identified visual interneurons during larval development of the locust Locusta migratoria

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Peter Simmons, Dr Julieta Sztarker, Dr Claire RindORCiD


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Insect larvae clearly react to visual stimuli, but the ability of any visual neuron in a newly hatched insect to respond selectively to particular stimuli has not been directly tested. We characterised a pair of neurons in locust larvae that have been extensively studied in adults, where they are known to respond selectively to objects approaching on a collision course: the lobula giant motion detector (LGMD); and its postsynaptic partner, the descending contralateral motion detector (DCMD). Our physiological recordings of DCMD axon spikes reveal that at the time of hatching the neurons already respond selectively to objects approaching the locust and they discriminate between different stimulus approach speeds with differences in spike frequency. For a particular approaching stimulus, both the number and peak frequency of spikes increase with instar. In contrast, the number of spikes in responses to receding stimuli decreases with instar, so performance in discriminating approaching from receding stimuli improves as the locust goes through successive moults. In all instars, visual movement over one part of the visual field suppresses a response to movement over another part. Electron microscopy demonstrates that the anatomical substrate for the selective response to approaching stimuli is present in all larval instars: small neuronal processes carrying information from the eye make synapses both onto LGMD dendrites and with each other, providing pathways for lateral inhibition that shapes selectivity for approaching objects.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Simmons PJ, Sztarker J, Rind FC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Experimental Biology

Year: 2013

Volume: 216

Pages: 2266-2275

Print publication date: 15/06/2013

ISSN (print): 0022-0949

ISSN (electronic): 1477-9145

Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd


DOI: 10.1242/jeb.083360


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