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It's not all black and white: visual scene parameters influence optokinetic reflex performance in Xenopus laevis tadpoles

J Exp Biol 220: 4213-4224. doi: 10.1242/jeb.167700.

Authors/Editors: Gravot C
Knorr AG
Glasauer S
Straka H
Publication Date: 2017
Type of Publication: Journal Articles 2001 - 2018

Abstract

The maintenance of visual acuity during active and passive body motion is ensured by gaze-stabilizing reflexes that aim at minimizing retinal image slip. For the optokinetic reflex (OKR), large-field visual motion of the surround forms the essential stimulus that activates eye movements. Properties of the moving visual world influence cognitive motion perception and the estimation of visual image velocity. Therefore, the performance of brainstem-mediated visuo-motor behaviors might also depend on image scene characteristics. Employing semi-intact preparations of mid-larval stages of Xenopus laevis tadpoles, we studied the influence of contrast polarity, intensity, contour shape and different motion stimulus patterns on the performance of the OKR and multi-unit optic nerve discharge during motion of a large-field visual scene. At high contrast intensities, the OKR amplitude was significantly larger for visual scenes with a positive contrast (bright dots on a dark background) compared with those with a negative contrast. This effect persisted for luminance-matched pairs of stimuli, and was independent of contour shape. The relative biases of OKR performance along with the independence of the responses from contour shape were closely matched by the optic nerve discharge evoked by the same visual stimuli. However, the multi-unit activity of retinal ganglion cells in response to a small single moving vertical edge was strongly influenced by the light intensity in the vertical neighborhood. This suggests that the underlying mechanism of OKR biases related to contrast polarity directly derives from visual motion-processing properties of the retinal circuitry.

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