Visual motion sensitivity in descending neurons in the hoverfly

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    Many animals use motion vision information to control dynamic behaviors. For example, flying insects must decide whether to pursue a prey or not, to avoid a predator, to maintain their current flight trajectory, or to land. The neural mechanisms underlying the computation of visual motion have been particularly well investigated in the fly optic lobes. However, the descending neurons, which connect the optic lobes with the motor command centers of the ventral nerve cord, remain less studied. To address this deficiency, we describe motion vision sensitive descending neurons in the hoverfly Eristalis tenax. We describe how the neurons can be identified based on their receptive field properties, and how they respond to moving targets, looming stimuli and to widefield optic flow. We discuss their similarities with previously published visual neurons, in the optic lobes and ventral nerve cord, and suggest that they can be classified as target-selective, looming sensitive and optic flow sensitive, based on these similarities. Our results highlight the importance of using several visual stimuli as the neurons can rarely be identified based on only one response characteristic. In addition, they provide an understanding of the neurophysiology of visual neurons that are likely to affect behavior.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-163
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

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    Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit


    • Insect vision
    • Looming
    • Optic flow
    • Target detection
    • Ventral nerve cord


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