The functional organization of male-specific visual neurons in flies

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88 Scopus citations


Intracellular recording and Lucifer yellow dye filling of male fleshflies, Sarcophaga bullata, have revealed male-specific neurons in the lobula, the axons of which project to the origin of premotor channels supplying flight motor neurons. Dendrites of male-specific neurons visit areas of the retinotopic mosaic supplied by the retina's acute zone, which is used by males to keep the image of a conspecific female centered during aerial pursuit. Only males engage in high-speed acrobatic chases, and male-specific neurons are suspected to under-lie this behavior. Physiological determination of receptive fields of male-specific neurons substantiates the fields predicted from anatomical studies and demonstrates that they subtend the acute zone. Male-specific neurons respond in a manner predicted on theoretical grounds from observations of tracking behavior. Such properties include directional selectivity to visual motion and higher sensitivity to motion of small images than to wide-field motion. The present account substantiates and extends neuroanatomical evidence that predicts that male-specific lobula neurons comprise a distinct circuit mediating conspecific tracking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-411
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1991


  • Directional selectivity
  • Electrophysiology
  • Insect vision
  • Receptive fields
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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