Effect of stimulus height on cockroach optomotor response [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Juha Nuutila, Anna E. Honkanen, Kyösti Heimonen, and Matti Weckström

Using tethered American cockroaches walking on a trackball in a spherical virtual reality environment, we tested optomotor responses to horizontally moving black-and-white gratings of different vertical extent under six different light intensities. We found that shortening the vertical extent of the wide-field stimulus grating within a light level weakened response strength, reduced average velocity and decreased angular walking distance. Optomotor responses with the vertically shortened stimuli persisted down to light intensity levels of 0.05 lx. Response latency seems to be independent of both the height of the stimulus and light intensity. The optomotor response started saturating at a light intensity of 5 lx, where the shortest behaviourally significant stimulus was 1 deg. This indicates that the number of vertical ommatidial rows needed to elicit an optomotor response at 5 lx and above is in the single digits, maybe even just one. Our behavioural results encourage further inquiry into the interplay of light intensity and stimulus size in insect dim-light vision.

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