Parallel channels for motion feature extraction in the pretectum and tectum of larval zebrafish
Non-cortical visual areas in vertebrate brains extract different stimulus features, such as motion, object size and location, to support behavioural tasks. The optic tectum and pretectum, two primary visual areas, are thought to fulfil complementary biological functions in zebrafish to support prey capture and optomotor stabilisation behaviour. However, the adaptations of these brain areas to behaviourally relevant stimulus statistics are unknown. Here, we used calcium imaging to characterize the receptive fields of 1,926 motion-sensitive neurons in diencephalon and midbrain. We show that many caudal pretectal neurons have large receptive fields (RFs), whereas RFs of tectal neurons are smaller and mostly size-selective. RF centres of large-size RF neurons in the pretectum are predominantly located in the lower visual field, while tectal neurons sample the upper-nasal visual field more densely. This tectal visual field sampling matches the expected prey item locations, suggesting that the tectal magnification of the upper-nasal visual field might be an adaptation to hunting behaviour. Finally, we probed optomotor responsiveness and found that even relatively small stimuli drive optomotor swimming, if presented in the lower-temporal visual field, suggesting that the pretectum preferably samples information from this region on the ground to inform optomotor behaviour. Our characterization of the parallel processing channels for non-cortical motion feature extraction provides a basis for further investigation into the sensorimotor transformations of the zebrafish brain and its adaptations to habitat and lifestyle.
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