Processing of natural time series of intensities by the visual system of the blowfly

Vision Res. 1997 Dec;37(23):3407-16. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(97)00105-3.


A major problem that a visual system faces is how to fit the large intensity variation of natural image streams into the limited dynamic range of its neurons. One of the means to accomplish this is through the use of gain control. In order to investigate this, natural time series of intensities were measured, as well as the responses of blowfly photoreceptors and Large Monopolar Cells (LMCs) to these time series. Time series representative of what each photoreceptor of a real visual system would normally receive were measured with an optical system measuring the light intensity of a spot comparable with the field of view of single human foveal cones. This system was worn on a headband by a freely walking person. Resulting time series have rms-contrasts ranging from an average of 0.45 for 1-sec segments to 1.39 for 100-sec segments (both when limited to frequencies up to 100 Hz). Power spectra behave approximately as 1/f (f: temporal frequency). Measured time series were subsequently presented to fly photoreceptors and LMCs by playing them back on an LED. The results show that fast gain controls indeed keep the response within the dynamic range of the cells and that a large part of this range is actually used for packing the information in natural time series.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*