Elementary Computation of Object Approach by a Wide-Field Visual Neuron

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Science  10 Nov 1995:
Vol. 270, Issue 5238, pp. 1000-1003
DOI: 10.1126/science.270.5238.1000


An essential function of the brain is to detect threats, such as those posed by objects or predators on a collision course. A wide-field, movement-sensitive visual neuron in the brain of the locust was studied by presenting simulated approaching, receding, and translating objects. The neuron's responses could be described simply by multiplying the velocity of the image edge (dθ/dt) with an exponential function of the size of the object's image on the retina (e−αθ). Because this product peaks before the image reaches its maximum size during approach, this neuron can anticipate collision. The neuron's activity peaks approximately when the approaching object reaches a certain angular size. Because this neuron receives distinct inputs about image size and velocity, the dendritic tree of a single neuron may function as a biophysical device that can carry out a multiplication of two independent input signals.

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