Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 47-64

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Motion processing with wide-field neurons in the retino-tecto-rotundal pathway

  • Babette DellenAffiliated withBernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Max-Planck-Institute for Dynamics and Self-OrganizationInstitut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (CSIC-UPC) Email author 
  • , Ralf WesselAffiliated withPhysics Department, CB 1105, Washington University in St. Louis
  • , John W. ClarkAffiliated withPhysics Department, CB 1105, Washington University in St. Louis
  • , Florentin WörgötterAffiliated withBernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience III. Physikalisches Institut-Biophysik, Georg-August Universität Göttingen


The retino-tecto-rotundal pathway is the main visual pathway in non-mammalian vertebrates and has been found to be highly involved in visual processing. Despite the extensive receptive fields of tectal and rotundal wide-field neurons, pattern discrimination tasks suggest a system with high spatial resolution. In this paper, we address the problem of how global processing performed by motion-sensitive wide-field neurons can be brought into agreement with the concept of a local analysis of visual stimuli. As a solution to this problem, we propose a firing-rate model of the retino-tecto-rotundal pathway which describes how spatiotemporal information can be organized and retained by tectal and rotundal wide-field neurons while processing Fourier-based motion in absence of periodic receptive-field structures. The model incorporates anatomical and electrophysiological experimental data on tectal and rotundal neurons, and the basic response characteristics of tectal and rotundal neurons to moving stimuli are captured by the model cells. We show that local velocity estimates may be derived from rotundal-cell responses via superposition in a subsequent processing step. Experimentally testable predictions which are both specific and characteristic to the model are provided. Thus, a conclusive explanation can be given of how the retino-tecto-rotundal pathway enables the animal to detect and localize moving objects or to estimate its self-motion parameters.


Visual motion Retino-tecto-rotundal pathway Optic tectum Nucleus rotundus Optic flow