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Cell Tissue Res. 1992 Jan;267(1):17-28.

The optic lobe of Drosophila melanogaster. II. Sorting of retinotopic pathways in the medulla.

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Institut für Biologie III, Freiburg, Federal Republic of Germany.


We present a quantitative evaluation of Golgi-impregnated columnar neurons in the optic lobe of wild-type Drosophila melanogaster. This analysis reveals the overall connectivity pattern between the 10 neuropil layers of the medulla and demonstrates the existence of at least three major visual pathways. Pathway 1 connects medulla layer M10 to the lobula plate. Input layers of this pathway are M1 and M5. Pathway 2 connects M9 to shallow layers of the lobula, which in turn are tightly linked to the lobula plate. This pathway gets major input via M2. Pathways 1 and 2 receive input from retinula cells R1-6, either via the lamina monopolar cell L1 (terminating in M1 and M5) or via L2 and T1 (terminating in M2). Neurons of these pathways typically have small dendritic fields. We discuss evidence that pathways 1 and 2 may play a major role in motion detection. Pathway 3 connects M8 to deep layers of the lobula. In M8 information converges that is derived either from M3 (pathway 3a) or from M4 and M6 (pathway 3b), layers that get their major input from L3 and R8 or L4 and R7, respectively. Some neurons of pathway 3 have large dendritic fields. We suggest that they may be involved in the computation of form and colour. Possible analogies to the organization of pathways in the visual system of vertebrates are discussed.

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