Pre-synaptic Muscarinic Excitation Enhances the Discrimination of Looming Stimuli in a Collision-Detection Neuron
Dewell, Richard B.
Visual neurons that track objects on a collision course are often finely tuned to their target stimuli because this is critical for survival. The presynaptic neural networks converging on these neurons and their role in tuning them remain poorly understood. We took advantage of well-known characteristics of one such neuron in the grasshopper visual system to investigate the properties of its presynaptic input network. We find the structure more complex than hitherto realized. In addition to dynamic lateral inhibition used to filter out background motion, presynaptic circuits include normalizing inhibition and excitatory interactions mediated by muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. These interactions preferentially boost responses to coherently expanding visual stimuli generated by colliding objects, as opposed to spatially incoherent controls, helping to discriminate between them. Hence, in addition to active dendritic conductances within collision-detecting neurons, multiple layers of inhibitory and excitatory presynaptic connections are needed to finely tune neural circuits for collision detection.