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Invisible noise obscures visible signal in insect motion detection

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ghaith Tarawneh, Dr Vivek Nityananda, Dr Ronny Rosner, Steven Errington, Professor Jenny ReadORCiD, Dr Ignacio Serrano-PedrazaORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2017 The Author(s). The motion energy model is the standard account of motion detection in animals from beetles to humans. Despite this common basis, we show here that a difference in the early stages of visual processing between mammals and insects leads this model to make radically different behavioural predictions. In insects, early filtering is spatially lowpass, which makes the surprising prediction that motion detection can be impaired by "invisible" noise, i.e. noise at a spatial frequency that elicits no response when presented on its own as a signal. We confirm this prediction using the optomotor response of praying mantis Sphodromantis lineola. This does not occur in mammals, where spatially bandpass early filtering means that linear systems techniques, such as deriving channel sensitivity from masking functions, remain approximately valid. Counter-intuitive effects such as masking by invisible noise may occur in neural circuits wherever a nonlinearity is followed by a difference operation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tarawneh G, Nityananda V, Rosner R, Errington S, Herbert W, Cumming BG, Read JCA, Serrano-Pedraza I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2017

Volume: 7

Online publication date: 14/06/2017

Acceptance date: 03/05/2017

Date deposited: 05/07/2017

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03732-7


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