Recent experiments have shown that motion detection in Drosophila starts with splitting the visual input into two parallel channels encoding brightness increments (ON) or decrements (OFF). This suggests the existence of either two (ON-ON, OFF-OFF) or four (for all pairwise interactions) separate motion detectors. To decide between these possibilities, we stimulated flies using sequences of ON and OFF brightness pulses while recording from motion-sensitive tangential cells. We found direction-selective responses to sequences of same sign (ON-ON, OFF-OFF), but not of opposite sign (ON-OFF, OFF-ON), refuting the existence of four separate detectors. Based on further measurements, we propose a model that reproduces a variety of additional experimental data sets, including ones that were previously interpreted as support for four separate detectors. Our experiments and the derived model mark an important step in guiding further dissection of the fly motion detection circuit.
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