The impulse response of optic flow-sensitive descending neurons to roll m-sequences

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When animals move through the world, their own movements generate widefield optic flow across their eyes. In insects, such widefield motion is encoded by optic lobe neurons. These lobula plate tangential cells (LPTCs) synapse with optic flow-sensitive descending neurons, which in turn project to areas that control neck, wing and leg movements. As the descending neurons play a role in sensorimotor transformation, it is important to understand their spatio-temporal response properties. Recent work shows that a relatively fast and efficient way to quantify such response properties is to use m-sequences or other white noise techniques. Therefore, here we used m-sequences to quantify the impulse responses of optic flow-sensitive descending neurons in male Eristalis tenax hoverflies. We focused on roll impulse responses as hoverflies perform exquisite head roll stabilizing reflexes, and the descending neurons respond particularly well to roll. We found that the roll impulse responses were fast, peaking after 16.5–18.0 ms. This is similar to the impulse response time to peak (18.3 ms) to widefield horizontal motion recorded in hoverfly LPTCs. We found that the roll impulse response amplitude scaled with the size of the stimulus impulse, and that its shape could be affected by the addition of constant velocity roll or lift. For example, the roll impulse response became faster and stronger with the addition of excitatory stimuli, and vice versa. We also found that the roll impulse response had a long return to baseline, which was significantly and substantially reduced by the addition of either roll or lift.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb242833
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Eristalis tenax
  • Lobula plate tangential cells
  • Motion detection


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