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J Neurosci. 2008 Jun 18;28(25):6319-32. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1196-08.2008.

The processing of color, motion, and stimulus timing are anatomically segregated in the bumblebee brain.

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Department of Psychology, Arizona Research Laboratories, Division of Neurobiology University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


Animals use vision to perform such diverse behaviors as finding food, interacting socially with other animals, choosing a mate, and avoiding predators. These behaviors are complex and the visual system must process color, motion, and pattern cues efficiently so that animals can respond to relevant stimuli. The visual system achieves this by dividing visual information into separate pathways, but to what extent are these parallel streams separated in the brain? To answer this question, we recorded intracellularly in vivo from 105 morphologically identified neurons in the lobula, a major visual processing structure of bumblebees (Bombus impatiens). We found that these cells have anatomically segregated dendritic inputs confined to one or two of six lobula layers. Lobula neurons exhibit physiological characteristics common to their respective input layer. Cells with arborizations in layers 1-4 are generally indifferent to color but sensitive to motion, whereas layer 5-6 neurons often respond to both color and motion cues. Furthermore, the temporal characteristics of these responses differ systematically with dendritic branching pattern. Some layers are more temporally precise, whereas others are less precise but more reliable across trials. Because different layers send projections to different regions of the central brain, we hypothesize that the anatomical layers of the lobula are the structural basis for the segregation of visual information into color, motion, and stimulus timing.

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