Neuromodulation of insect motion vision

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2020 Mar;206(2):125-137. doi: 10.1007/s00359-019-01383-9. Epub 2019 Dec 6.


Insects use vision to choose from a repertoire of flexible behaviors which they perform for survival. Decisions for behavioral plasticity are achieved through the neuromodulation of sensory processes, including motion vision. Here, we briefly review the anatomy of the insect motion vision system. Next, we review the neuromodulatory influences on motion vision. Serotonin modulates peripheral visual processing, whereas octopamine modulates all stages of visual processing tested to date. The physiological and behavioral states that elicit neuromodulation of motion vision include locomotion, changes in internal physiological state such as hunger, and changes in the external environment such as the presence of additional sensory cues. The direction of influence between these states and neuromodulators remains unknown. The influence of neuromodulators on motion vision circuitry has been revealed mostly through pharmacological application, which broadcasts widely with unnatural spatiotemporal dynamics. Thus, insight from this method is limited. Aminergic neurons likely act in local hierarchical fashion rather than globally as a group. As genetic tools advance in Drosophila, future work restricting the experimental focus to subpopulations of modulatory neurons will provide insight into the local functional modifications of visual circuits by interacting neuromodulators.

Keywords: Drosophila; Multi-modal integration; Octopamine; Serotonin; Visual circuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Hunger
  • Locomotion
  • Motion Perception*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Octopamine / metabolism
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Vision, Ocular*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology


  • Octopamine