By combining neuropharmacology and electrophysiology, we tried to determine whether the main neuronal mechanism responsible for direction-selective motion detection in the fly is based on an excitatory or an inhibitory synaptic interaction. By blocking inhibitory interactions with picrotoxinin, an antagonist of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, we could abolish most of the directional selectivity of a large-field movement-sensitive neuron (H1-cell) in the lobula plate of the blowfly Calliphora erythrocephala. These modifications are similar to changes observed in the optomotor response of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster after application of picrotoxinin (Bülthoff and Bülthoff 1987a, b). Assuming a simplified logical model, these results are compatible with inhibitory synaptic interactions at the level of the elementary movement detectors. The picrotoxinin-induced changes in direction selectivity are not due to modifications of the peripheral visual processing in the retina and lamina. This was shown by simultaneous recordings of the electroretinogram and the H1-cell. The latencies between drug injections into various parts of the brain and their first effects on the H1-cell suggest that the inhibitory mechanism for motion detection is located in the medulla rather than in the lobula plate.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Computer Science(all)