Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 5-18

First online:

Mechanisms of dendritic integration underlying gain control in fly motion-sensitive interneurons

  • Alexander BorstAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik
  • , Martin EgelhaafAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik
  • , Jürgen HaagAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik

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In the compensatory optomotor response of the fly the interesting phenomenon of gain control has been observed by Reichardt and colleagues (Reichardt et al., 1983): The amplitude of the response tends to saturate with increasing stimulus size, but different saturation plateaus are assumed with different velocities at which the stimulus is moving. This characteristic can already be found in the motion-sensitive large field neurons of the fly optic lobes that play a role in mediating this behavioral response (Hausen, 1982; Reichardt et al, 1983; Egelhaaf, 1985; Haag et al., 1992). To account for gain control a model was proposed involving shunting inhibition of these cells by another cell, the so-called pool cell (Reichardt et al., 1983), both cells sharing common input from an array of local motion detectors. This article describes an alternative model which only requires dendritic integration of the output signals of two types of local motion detectors with opposite polarity. The explanation of gain control relies on recent findings that these input elements are not perfectly directionally selective and that their direction selectivity is a function of pattern velocity. As a consequence, the resulting postsynaptic potential in the dendrite of the integrating cell saturates with increasing pattern size at a level between the excitatory and inhibitory reversal potentials. The exact value of saturation is then set by the activation ratio of excitatory and inhibitory input elements which in turn is a function of other stimulus parameters such as pattern velocity. Thus, the apparently complex phenomenon of gain control can be simply explained by the biophysics of dendritic integration in conjunction with the properties of the motion-sensitive input elements.


motion detection gain control visual interneuron dendritic integratio