Studying the insect visual system provides important data on the basic neural mechanisms underlying visual processing. As in vertebrates, the first step in visual processing in insects is through a series of retinotopic neurons. Recent studies on flies have found that these converge onto assemblies of columnar neurons in the lobula, the axons of which segregate to project to discrete optic glomeruli in the lateral protocerebrum. This arrangement is much like the fly's olfactory system, in which afferents target uniquely identifiable olfactory glomeruli. Here, whole-cell patch recordings show that even though visual primitives are unreliably encoded by single lobula output neurons because of high synaptic noise, they are reliably encoded by the ensemble of outputs. At a glomerulus, local inter neurons reliably code visual primitives, as do projection neurons conveying information centrally from the glomerulus. These observations demonstrate that in Drosophila, as in other dipterans, optic glomeruli are involved in further reconstructing the fly's visual world. Optic glomeruli and antennal lobe glomeruli share the same ancestral anatomical and functional ground pattern, enabling reliable responses to be extracted from converging sensory inputs.
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