Speed tuning in elementary motion detectors of the correlation type

Biol Cybern. 1999 Feb;80(2):109-16. doi: 10.1007/s004220050509.


A prominent model of visual motion detection is the so-called correlation or Reichardt detector. Whereas this model can account for many properties of motion vision, from humans to insects (review, Borst and Egelhaaf 1989), it has been commonly assumed that this scheme of motion detection is not well suited to the measurement of image velocity. This is because the commonly used version of the model, which incorporates two unidirectional motion detectors with opposite preferred directions, produces a response which varies not only with the velocity of the image, but also with its spatial structure and contrast. On the other hand, information on image velocity can be crucial in various contexts, and a number of recent behavioural experiments suggest that insects do extract velocity for navigational purposes (review, Srinivasan et al. 1996). Here we show that other versions of the correlation model, which consists of a single unidirectional motion detector or incorporates two oppositely directed detectors with unequal sensitivities, produce responses which vary with image speed and display tuning curves that are substantially independent of the spatial structure of the image. This surprising feature suggests simple strategies of reducing ambiguities in the estimation of speed by using components of neural hardware that are already known to exist in the visual system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Models, Theoretical
  • Motion Perception*