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Cells with double vision
Date:2/17/2009

a now looked at this question. He examined the reactions of the VS-cells to moving stimuli using a large variety of techniques. The breakthrough came when he used a special microscopy technique which visualizes changes in the concentrations of calcium within the cells. The calcium concentration in many kinds of nerve cells, including VS cells, changes when the cell becomes active. Changes in the calcium level therefore reveal when and where a nerve cell reacts to a stimulus.

In order to determine the receptive field of each VS-cell, Elyada presented moving stripe patterns to the flies while simultaneously monitoring the changes in the calcium levels within the cells. The results correlated well with the scientist's predictions. In their input region, VS-cells do indeeed respond to movement in only a narrow area of the visual field. In contrast, in the cells' output region, each cell also responds to movement in the receptive fields of its neighbouring cells. The prior assumption that the receptive field of a nerve cell is a single unit must therefore be re-evaluated. In future, such statements need to distinguish between the input and the output regions of the cell - at least when referring to VS-cells. Such spatial separation within a single cell took the scientists by surprise. However, as far as the fly is concerned, it is a very useful attribute. Model simulations demonstrated that a network that is comprised of such "double input cells" can process visual motion information much more efficiently.

Step by step approach

"With these results, the VS-cell network is now one of the best understood circuits in the fly's nervous system", Alexander Borst recapitulates the group's work of the last few years. The scientists' next goal is to ascertain whether a malfunction of the VS network has any direct bearing on the fly's flight skills. "For when it comes down to influencing a certain pattern of behaviour, cells and networks that were
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Contact: Dr. Stefanie Merker
merker@neuro.mpg.de
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3 4

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