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Eur J Neurosci. 2005 Nov;22(9):2325-31.

Tectal neurons signal impending collision of looming objects in the pigeon.

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Laboratory for Visual Information Processing, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 15 Datun Road, Beijing 100101, People's Republic of China.


Although the optic tectum in non-mammals and its mammalian homolog, the superior colliculus, are involved in avoidance behaviors, whether and how tectal neurons respond to an object approaching on a collision course towards the animal remain unclear. Here we show by single unit recording that there exist three classes of looming-sensitive neurons in the pigeon tectal layer 13, which sends looming information to the nucleus rotundus or to the tectopontine system. The response onset time of tau cells is approximately constant whereas that for rho and eta cells depends on the square root of the diameter/velocity ratio of objects looming towards the animal, the cardioacceleration of which is also linearly related to the square root of this ratio. The receptive field of tectal cells is composed of an excitatory center and an inhibitory periphery, and this periphery does not inhibit responses to looming stimuli. These results suggest that three classes of tectal neurons are specified for detecting an object approaching on a collision course towards the animal, and that rho and eta cells may signal early warning of impending collision whereas tau cells initiate avoidance responses at a constant time before collision through the tectopontine system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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