Publication of IMPRS-LS student Yunmin Wu

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Wu, Y., Dal Maschio, M., Kubo, F., and Baier, H.
Neuron, 2020, [Epub ahead of print].
doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.08.027

An Optical Illusion Pinpoints an Essential Circuit Node for Global Motion Processing

Direction-selective (DS) neurons compute the direction of motion in a visual scene. Brain-wide imaging in larval zebrafish has revealed hundreds of DS neurons scattered throughout the brain. However, the exact population that causally drives motion-dependent behaviors-e.g., compensatory eye and body movements-remains largely unknown. To identify the behaviorally relevant population of DS neurons, here we employ the motion aftereffect (MAE), which causes the well-known "waterfall illusion." Together with region-specific optogenetic manipulations and cellular-resolution functional imaging, we found that MAE-responsive neurons represent merely a fraction of the entire population of DS cells in larval zebrafish. They are spatially clustered in a nucleus in the ventral lateral pretectal area and are necessary and sufficient to steer the entire cycle of optokinetic eye movements. Thus, our illusion-based behavioral paradigm, combined with optical imaging and optogenetics, identified key circuit elements of global motion processing in the vertebrate brain.