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Binocular interactions underlying the classic optomotor responses of flying flies.

  • Author(s): Duistermars, Brian J
  • Care, Rachel A
  • Frye, Mark A
  • et al.

In response to imposed course deviations, the optomotor reactions of animals reduce motion blur and facilitate the maintenance of stable body posture. In flies, many anatomical and electrophysiological studies suggest that disparate motion cues stimulating the left and right eyes are not processed in isolation but rather are integrated in the brain to produce a cohesive panoramic percept. To investigate the strength of such inter-ocular interactions and their role in compensatory sensory-motor transformations, we utilize a virtual reality flight simulator to record wing and head optomotor reactions by tethered flying flies in response to imposed binocular rotation and monocular front-to-back and back-to-front motion. Within a narrow range of stimulus parameters that generates large contrast insensitive optomotor responses to binocular rotation, we find that responses to monocular front-to-back motion are larger than those to panoramic rotation, but are contrast sensitive. Conversely, responses to monocular back-to-front motion are slower than those to rotation and peak at the lowest tested contrast. Together our results suggest that optomotor responses to binocular rotation result from the influence of non-additive contralateral inhibitory as well as excitatory circuit interactions that serve to confer contrast insensitivity to flight behaviors influenced by rotatory optic flow.

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