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Vis Neurosci. 2006 Mar-Apr;23(2):209-19.

Responses of the teleostean nucleus isthmi to looming objects and other moving stimuli.

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Department of Psychology, Millersville University, Milersville, Pennsylvania, USA.


Visually evoked extracellular neural activity was recorded from the nucleus isthmi (NI) of goldfish and bluegill sunfish. When moving anywhere within the right eye's visual field, three-dimensional checkered balls or patterns on a computer screen evoked bursts of spikes in the left NI. Object motion parallel to the longitudinal body axis gave responses that habituated markedly upon repetition, but movement into recently unstimulated regions of the visual field gave vigorous responses. Thus, while NI's response is not visuotopic, its habituation is. An object approaching the animal's body generated a rising spike density, whereas object recession generated only a transient burst. During the approach of a checkered stimulus ball, average NI spike density rose linearly as the ball-to-eye distance decreased and at a rate proportional to the ball's speed (2.5-30 cm/s). Increasing ball size (2.2-9.2 cm) did not affect the rate of activity rise at a given speed, but did increase overall activity levels. NI also responded reliably to expanding textures of fixed overall size. The results suggest that NI signals changes in motion of objects relative to the fish, and estimates the proximity of approaching objects.

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