Dr Steven Wiederman and Associate Professor David O'Carroll from the University's Centre for Neuroscience Research have been studying the underlying processes of insect vision and applying that knowledge in robotics and artificial vision systems.
Their latest discovery, published this month in The Journal of Neuroscience, is that the brains of dragonflies combine opposite pathways - both an ON and OFF switch - when processing information about simple dark objects.
"To perceive the edges of objects and changes in light or darkness, the brains of many animals, including insects, frogs, and even humans, use two independent pathways, known as ON and OFF channels," says lead author Dr Steven Wiederman.
"Most animals will use a combination of ON switches with other ON switches in the brain, or OFF and OFF, depending on the circumstances. But what we show occurring in the dragonfly's brain is the combination of both OFF and ON switches. This happens in response to simple dark objects, likely to represent potential prey to this aerial predator.
"Although we've found this new visual circuit in the dragonfly, it's possible that many other animals could also have this circuit for perceiving various objects," Dr Wiederman says.
The researchers were able to record their results directly from 'target-selective' neurons in dragonflies' brains. They presented the dragonflies with moving lights that changed in intensity, as well as both light and dark targets.
"We discovered that the responses to the dark targets were much greater than we expected, and that the dragonfly's ability to respond to a dark moving target is from the correlation of opposite contrast pathways: OFF with ON," Dr Wiederman says.
"The exact mechanisms that occur in the brain for this to happen are of great interest in visual neurosciences generally, as well as for solving engineering applications in target detection and tracking. Understanding how visual systems work can have a range of outcomes, such as in the development of neural prosthetics and improvements in robot vision.
"A project is now underway at the University of Adelaide to translate much of the research we've conducted into a robot, to see if it can emulate the dragonfly's vision and movement. This project is well underway and once complete, watching our autonomous dragonfly robot will be very exciting," he says.
Media contact:Dr Steven Wiederman
Dr Steven Wiederman | Newswise
Fighting myocardial infarction with nanoparticle tandems
04.12.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Virtual Reality for Bacteria
01.12.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences