Rats maintain an overhead binocular field at the expense of constant fusion

Nature. 2013 Jun 6;498(7452):65-9. doi: 10.1038/nature12153. Epub 2013 May 26.


Fusing left and right eye images into a single view is dependent on precise ocular alignment, which relies on coordinated eye movements. During movements of the head this alignment is maintained by numerous reflexes. Although rodents share with other mammals the key components of eye movement control, the coordination of eye movements in freely moving rodents is unknown. Here we show that movements of the two eyes in freely moving rats differ fundamentally from the precisely controlled eye movements used by other mammals to maintain continuous binocular fusion. The observed eye movements serve to keep the visual fields of the two eyes continuously overlapping above the animal during free movement, but not continuously aligned. Overhead visual stimuli presented to rats freely exploring an open arena evoke an immediate shelter-seeking behaviour, but are ineffective when presented beside the arena. We suggest that continuously overlapping visual fields overhead would be of evolutionary benefit for predator detection by minimizing blind spots.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Escape Reaction / physiology
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Head / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement / physiology
  • Optic Disk / physiology
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Rats
  • Retina / physiology
  • Vision, Binocular / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*