Publication of IMPRS-LS student Andreas Kist

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Kist, A.M., and Portugues, R.
Cell Rep, 2019, 29, 659-670.e653.
doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.09.024

Optomotor Swimming in Larval Zebrafish Is Driven by Global Whole-Field Visual Motion and Local Light-Dark Transitions

Stabilizing gaze and position within an environment constitutes an important task for the nervous system of many animals. The optomotor response (OMR) is a reflexive behavior, present across many species, in which animals move in the direction of perceived whole-field visual motion, therefore stabilizing themselves with respect to the visual environment. Although the OMR has been extensively used to probe visuomotor neuronal circuitry, the exact visual cues that elicit the behavior remain unidentified. In this study, we use larval zebrafish to identify spatiotemporal visual features that robustly elicit forward OMR swimming. These cues consist of a local, forward-moving, off edge together with on/off symmetric, similarly directed, global motion. Imaging experiments reveal neural units specifically activated by the forward-moving light-dark transition. We conclude that the OMR is driven not just by whole-field motion but by the interplay between global and local visual stimuli, where the latter exhibits a strong light-dark asymmetry.