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Luminance Changes Drive Directional Startle through a Thalamic Pathway

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  • Lucy A.L. Heap, University of Queensland
  • ,
  • Gilles Vanwalleghem
  • Andrew W. Thompson, University of Queensland
  • ,
  • Itia A. Favre-Bulle, University of Queensland
  • ,
  • Ethan K. Scott, University of Queensland

Looming visual stimuli result in escape responses that are conserved from insects to humans. Despite their importance for survival, the circuits mediating visual startle have only recently been explored in vertebrates. Here we show that the zebrafish thalamus is a luminance detector critical to visual escape. Thalamic projection neurons deliver dim-specific information to the optic tectum, and ablations of these projections disrupt normal tectal responses to looms. Without this information, larvae are less likely to escape from dark looming stimuli and lose the ability to escape away from the source of the loom. Remarkably, when paired with an isoluminant loom stimulus to the opposite eye, dimming is sufficient to increase startle probability and to reverse the direction of the escape so that it is toward the loom. We suggest that bilateral comparisons of luminance, relayed from the thalamus to the tectum, facilitate escape responses and are essential for their directionality. Animals from insects to humans escape from looming visual stimuli. With calcium imaging in larval zebrafish, we show that the thalamus detects a drop in luminance as a simulated predator approaches, directing an appropriate escape movement away from the predator.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuron
Volume99
Issue2
Pages (from-to)293-301.e4
ISSN0896-6273
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Misha Ahrens for the elavl3:H2B:GCaMP6f line and Thomas R. Scott for guidance. Support came from an NHMRC project grant ( APP1066887 ), an Australian Research Council future fellowship ( FT110100887 ), a grant from the Simons Foundation ( SFARI 399432 ), and two Australian Research Council grants ( DP140102036 and DP110103612 ) (to E.K.S.); an EMBO long-term fellowship (ALTF 727-2014 to G.V.); and Australian postgraduate awards (to A.W.T. and L.A.L.H.). We used the Queensland Brain Institute’s Advanced Microscopy Facility, supported by an Australian Research Council LIEF grant ( LE130100078 ), and support was provided by the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) Queensland node.

Funding Information:
We thank Misha Ahrens for the elavl3:H2B:GCaMP6f line and Thomas R. Scott for guidance. Support came from an NHMRC project grant (APP1066887), an Australian Research Council future fellowship (FT110100887), a grant from the Simons Foundation (SFARI 399432), and two Australian Research Council grants (DP140102036 and DP110103612) (to E.K.S.); an EMBO long-term fellowship (ALTF 727-2014 to G.V.); and Australian postgraduate awards (to A.W.T. and L.A.L.H.). We used the Queensland Brain Institute's Advanced Microscopy Facility, supported by an Australian Research Council LIEF grant (LE130100078), and support was provided by the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) Queensland node.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.

    Research areas

  • calcium imaging, GCaMP, selective plane illumination microscopy, SPIM, superior colliculus, tectum, thalamus, vision, visual escape, zebrafish

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