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Perception of Fourier and non-Fourier motion by larval zebrafish


A moving grating elicits innate optomotor behavior in zebrafish larvae; they swim in the direction of perceived motion. We took advantage of this behavior, using computer-animated displays, to determine what attributes of motion are extracted by the fish visual system. As in humans, first-order (luminance-defined or Fourier) signals dominated motion perception in fish; edges or other features had little or no effect when presented with these signals. Humans can see complex movements that lack first-order cues, an ability that is usually ascribed to higher-level processing in the visual cortex. Here we show that second-order (non-Fourier) motion displays induced optomotor behavior in zebrafish larvae, which do not have a cortex. We suggest that second-order motion is extracted early in the lower vertebrate visual pathway.

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The authors thank Mark Churchland and Nick Priebe for reading the manuscript, and Jonathan Horton and Dan Adams for comments. H.B. is a David and Lucile Packard and an Alfred P. Sloan fellow. This work was supported by the HHMI Research Resources Program and by seed money from the Department of Physiology, UCSF. M.O. and M.S. were supported by predoctoral fellowships from HHMI and NSF, respectively.

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Correspondence to Herwig Baier.

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Figure 2: Psychophysical tests for the detection of Fourier motion by zebrafish.
Figure 1: The optomotor response of zebrafish larvae does not depend on long integration times or feature displacement.
Figure 3: Contrast-defined second-order motion evokes optomotor behavior in zebrafish.
Figure 4: Flicker-defined and orientation-defined second-order motion evokes optomotor behavior in zebrafish.