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Science 336 (6083): 925-931

Copyright © 2012 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Multiple Spectral Inputs Improve Motion Discrimination in the Drosophila Visual System

Trevor J. Wardill,1,* Olivier List,1,* Xiaofeng Li,1,2,* Sidhartha Dongre,1 Marie McCulloch,1 Chun-Yuan Ting,3 Cahir J. O’Kane,4 Shiming Tang,2 Chi-Hon Lee,3 Roger C. Hardie,5 Mikko Juusola1,2,{dagger}

Abstract: Color and motion information are thought to be channeled through separate neural pathways, but it remains unclear whether and how these pathways interact to improve motion perception. In insects, such as Drosophila, it has long been believed that motion information is fed exclusively by one spectral class of photoreceptor, so-called R1 to R6 cells; whereas R7 and R8 photoreceptors, which exist in multiple spectral classes, subserve color vision. Here, we report that R7 and R8 also contribute to the motion pathway. By using electrophysiological, optical, and behavioral assays, we found that R7/R8 information converge with and shape the motion pathway output, explaining flies’ broadly tuned optomotor behavior by its composite responses. Our results demonstrate that inputs from photoreceptors of different spectral sensitivities improve motion discrimination, increasing robustness of perception.

1 Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.
2 State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.
3 Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892–5431, USA.
4 Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EH, UK.
5 Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 2EG, UK.

* These authors contributed equally to this work.

{dagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: m.juusola{at}

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