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Acta Biol Hung. 2004;55(1-4):81-9.

Neurobiology of polarization vision in the locust Schistocerca gregaria.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, Animal Physiology, University of Marburg, D-35032 Marburg, Germany. homberg@staff.uni-marburg.de


The polarization pattern of the blue sky serves as an important reference for spatial orientation in insects. To understand the neural mechanisms involved in sky compass orientation we have analyzed the polarization vision system in the locust Schistocerca gregaria. As in other insects, photoreceptors adapted for the detection of sky polarization are concentrated in a dorsal rim area (DRA) of the compound eye. Stationary flying locusts show polarotactic yaw-torque responses when illuminated through a rotating polarizer from above. This response is abolished after painting the DRAs. Central stages of the polarization vision system, revealed through tracing studies, include dorsal areas in the lamina and medulla, the anterior lobe of the lobula, the anterior optic tubercle, the lateral accessory lobe and the central complex. Physiological analysis of polarization-sensitive (POL) neurons has focussed on the optic tubercle and on the central complex. Each POL neuron was maximally excited at a certain e-vector (phimax) and was maximally inhibited at an e-vector perpendicular to phimax. The neurons had large visual fields, and many neurons received input from both eyes. The neuronal organization of the central complex suggests a role as a spatial compass within the locust brain.

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