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How vision makes sure that little fish do not get carried away
Date:4/17/2014

sible to visualise the outlines of all neurons in a fish brain. The special feature of this technique, however, is that the dyes change colour when a neuron becomes active.

During the experiment, the heads of the fish with the labelled nervous system were embedded in a gel. The moving striped patterns on the walls of the container gave the animals the impression of self-motion, similar to the sensation triggered in an IMAX cinema. Depending on whether the stripes drifted forward or rotated, the fish followed the patterns with their eyes or beat their tails. Using a two-photon microscope, the scientists were able to observe which neurons reacted to the direction of the moving stripes.

Four direction-selective cell types had previously been identified in the retina. For a long time, scientists had predicted that these cells somehow carry information about optic flow to downstream neurons in the visual brain, which in turn transmitted the commands to the motor centers that control eye and body movements. The neurobiologists have now succeeded in demonstrating the existence of such comparatively simple neuronal connections. They also discovered seven previously unknown cell types responsible for more complex responses to the inputs from both eyes. For example, one type of cell becomes active when both eyes perceive a forward movement but not a clockwise rotation, which would evoke a turn to the right. This finding is remarkable as in both cases, the left eye should detect a movement from the outside in. "So, not only did we find new cell types, we also discovered a possible explanation as to why the fish's brain distinguishes between translational (that is, forward or backward) and rotational (that is, clockwise or counterclockwise) movements," explains Fumi Kubo.

Once the fish were placed back, swimming freely in their tank, the scientists produced a wiring diagram of the cells based on the recorded tasks for the new neuron types and their
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Contact: Dr. Herwig Baier
hbaier@neuro.mpg.de
49-898-578-3200
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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