Vision Made Easy: Cubozoans Can Advance Our Understanding of Systems-Level Visual Information Processing
Animals relying on vision as their main sensory modality reserve a large part of their central nervous system to appropriately navigate their environment. In general, neural involvement correlates to the complexity of the visual system and behavioural repertoire. In humans, one third of the available neural capacity supports our single-chambered general-purpose eyes, whereas animals with less elaborate visual systems need less computational power, and generally have smaller brains, and thereby lack in visual behaviour. As a consequence, both traditional model animals (mice, zebrafish, and flies) and more experimentally tractable animals (Hydra, Planaria, and C. elegans) cannot contribute to our understanding of systems-level visual information processing—a Goldilocks case of too big and too small.
However, one animal, the box jellyfish Tripedalia cystophora, possesses a rather complex visual system, displays multiple visual behaviours, yet processes visual information by means of a relatively simple central nervous system. This—just right—model system could not only provide information on how visual stimuli are processed through distinct combinations of neural circuitry but also provide a processing algorithm for extracting specific information from a complex visual scene.
The authors are indebted to Dan-Eric Nilsson for helping with the figures and continuous scientific insights.
This project was funded by the Cluster of Excellence ‘The Future Ocean’. ‘The Future Ocean’ is funded within the framework of the Excellence Initiative by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) on behalf of the German federal and state governments. JB acknowledges Danish Independent Research Grant no. DFF—1325-00146. AG acknowledges DFF—4181-00398.
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