Visual scenes comprise enormous amounts of information from which nervous systems extract behaviorally relevant cues. In most model systems, little is known about the transformation of visual information as it occurs along visual pathways. We examined how visual information is transformed physiologically as it is communicated from the eye to higher-order brain centers using bumblebees, which are known for their visual capabilities. We recorded intracellularly in vivo from 30 neurons in the central bumblebee brain (the lateral protocerebrum) and compared these neurons to 132 neurons from more distal areas along the visual pathway, namely the medulla and the lobula. In these three brain regions (medulla, lobula, and central brain), we examined correlations between the neurons' branching patterns and their responses primarily to color, but also to motion stimuli. Visual neurons projecting to the anterior central brain were generally color sensitive, while neurons projecting to the posterior central brain were predominantly motion sensitive. The temporal response properties differed significantly between these areas, with an increase in spike time precision across trials and a decrease in average reliable spiking as visual information processing progressed from the periphery to the central brain. These data suggest that neurons along the visual pathway to the central brain not only are segregated with regard to the physical features of the stimuli (e.g., color and motion), but also differ in the way they encode stimuli, possibly to allow for efficient parallel processing to occur.
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