Elementary computation of object approach by wide-field visual neuron

Science. 1995 Nov 10;270(5238):1000-3. doi: 10.1126/science.270.5238.1000.


An essential function of the brain is to detect threats, such as those posed by objects or predators on a collision course. A wide-field, movement-sensitive visual neuron in the brain of the locust was studied by presenting simulated approaching, receding, and translating objects. The neuron's responses could be described simply by multiplying the velocity of the image edge (dtheta/dtau) with an exponential function of the size of the object's image on the retina (e-alpha theta). Because this product peaks before the image reaches its maximum size during approach, this neuron can anticipate collision. The neuron's activity peaks approximately when the approaching object reaches a certain angular size. Because this neuron receives distinct inputs about image size and velocity, the dendritic tree of a single neuron may function as a biophysical device that can carry out a multiplication of two independent input signals.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Female
  • Grasshoppers / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Motion Perception*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Size Perception*
  • Vision, Ocular