Premotor descending neurons responding selectively to local visual stimuli in flies

J Comp Neurol. 1992 Feb 1;316(1):87-103. doi: 10.1002/cne.903160108.


The responses of dorsal descending neurons suggest great versatility of the visual system in detecting features of the visual world. Although wide-field motion-sensitive neurons respond to symmetric visual flow fields presented to both eyes, other neurons are known to respond selectively to asymmetric movement of the visual surround. The present account distinguishes yet a third class of descending neurons (DNs) that is selectively activated by local presentation of moving gratings or small contrasting objects. Excitation of these DNs in response to local motion contrasts with their inhibitory responses to wide-field motion. The described DNs invade dorsal neuropil of the pro- and mesothoracic ganglia where they converge with other morphologically and physiologically characterized descending elements. Axon collaterals of DNs visit thoracic neuropil containing the dendrites of motor neurons supplying indirect neck and flight muscles. The present results are discussed with respect to the organization of small-field retinotopic outputs from the lobula, and with respect to the parallel projection of many information channels from the brain to the neck and flight motors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cobalt
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Flight, Animal / physiology
  • Ganglia / cytology
  • Ganglia / physiology
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retina / physiology
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Cobalt
  • biocytin
  • Lysine