Modelling Drosophila motion vision pathways for decoding the direction of translating objects against cluttered moving backgrounds

Biol Cybern. 2020 Oct;114(4-5):443-460. doi: 10.1007/s00422-020-00841-x. Epub 2020 Jul 4.


Decoding the direction of translating objects in front of cluttered moving backgrounds, accurately and efficiently, is still a challenging problem. In nature, lightweight and low-powered flying insects apply motion vision to detect a moving target in highly variable environments during flight, which are excellent paradigms to learn motion perception strategies. This paper investigates the fruit fly Drosophila motion vision pathways and presents computational modelling based on cutting-edge physiological researches. The proposed visual system model features bio-plausible ON and OFF pathways, wide-field horizontal-sensitive (HS) and vertical-sensitive (VS) systems. The main contributions of this research are on two aspects: (1) the proposed model articulates the forming of both direction-selective and direction-opponent responses, revealed as principal features of motion perception neural circuits, in a feed-forward manner; (2) it also shows robust direction selectivity to translating objects in front of cluttered moving backgrounds, via the modelling of spatiotemporal dynamics including combination of motion pre-filtering mechanisms and ensembles of local correlators inside both the ON and OFF pathways, which works effectively to suppress irrelevant background motion or distractors, and to improve the dynamic response. Accordingly, the direction of translating objects is decoded as global responses of both the HS and VS systems with positive or negative output indicating preferred-direction or null-direction translation. The experiments have verified the effectiveness of the proposed neural system model, and demonstrated its responsive preference to faster-moving, higher-contrast and larger-size targets embedded in cluttered moving backgrounds.

Keywords: Direction selectivity; Drosophila; Foreground translation perception; Motion vision; ON and OFF pathways; Visual system model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila*
  • Motion
  • Motion Perception*
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Visual Pathways