The mapping of visual space by identified large second-order neurons in the dragonfly median ocellus

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2006 Oct;192(10):1105-23. doi: 10.1007/s00359-006-0142-5. Epub 2006 Jun 8.


In adult dragonflies, the compound eyes are augmented by three simple eyes known as the dorsal ocelli. The outputs of ocellar photoreceptors converge on relatively few second-order neurons with large axonal diameters (L-neurons). We determine L-neuron morphology by iontophoretic dye injection combined with three-dimensional reconstructions. Using intracellular recording and white noise analysis, we also determine the physiological receptive fields of the L-neurons, in order to identify the extent to which they preserve spatial information. We find a total of 11 median ocellar L-neurons, consisting of five symmetrical pairs and one unpaired neuron. L-neurons are distinguishable by the extent and location of their terminations within the ocellar plexus and brain. In the horizontal dimension, L-neurons project to different regions of the ocellar plexus, in close correlation with their receptive fields. In the vertical dimension, dendritic arborizations overlap widely, paralleled by receptive fields that are narrow and do not differ between different neurons. These results provide the first evidence for the preservation of spatial information by the second-order neurons of any dorsal ocellus. The system essentially forms a one-dimensional image of the equator over a wide azimuthal area, possibly forming an internal representation of the horizon. Potential behavioural roles for the system are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Insecta / anatomy & histology
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / radiation effects
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Sense Organs / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Fields / radiation effects
  • Visual Pathways / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology