Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rats have a double view of the world

27.05.2013
Rodents move their eyes in opposite directions, thereby always keeping an eye on the airspace above them

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, using miniaturised high-speed cameras and high-speed behavioural tracking, discovered that rats move their eyes in opposite directions in both the horizontal and the vertical plane when running around.


Rats process visual information from their eyes similar to other mammals. Nevertheless, their eyes move in a very different way. Unlike humans, their eyes can move in opposite directions.
© MPI for Biological Cybernetics/Kerr

Each eye moves in a different direction, depending on the change in the animal’s head position. An analysis of both eyes’ field of view found that the eye movements exclude the possibility that rats fuse the visual information into a single image like humans do. Instead, the eyes move in such a way that enables the space above them to be permanently in view – presumably an adaptation to help them deal with the major threat from predatory birds that rodents face in their natural environment.

Like many mammals, rats have their eyes on the sides of their heads. This gives them a very wide visual field, useful for detection of predators. However, three-dimensional vision requires overlap of the visual fields of the two eyes. Thus, the visual system of these animals needs to meet two conflicting demands at the same time; on the one hand maximum surveillance and on the other hand detailed binocular vision.

The research team from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics have now, for the first time, observed and characterised the eye movements of freely moving rats. They fitted minuscule cameras weighing only about one gram to the animals’ heads, which could record the lightning-fast eye movements with great precision. The scientists also used another new method to measure the position and direction of the head, enabling them to reconstruct the rats’ exact line of view at any given time.

The Max Planck scientists’ findings came as a complete surprise. Although rats process visual information from their eyes through very similar brain pathways to other mammals, their eyes evidently move in a totally different way. “Humans move their eyes in a very stereotypical way for both counteracting head movements and searching around. Both our eyes move together and always follow the same object. In rats, on the other hand, the eyes generally move in opposite directions,” explains Jason Kerr from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics.

In a series of behavioural experiments, the neurobiologists also discovered that the eye movements largely depend on the position of the animal’s head. “When the head points downward, the eyes move back, away from the tip of the nose. When the rat lifts its head, the eyes look forward: cross-eyed, so to speak. If the animal puts its head on one side, the eye on the lower side moves up and the other eye moves down.” says Jason Kerr.

In humans, the direction in which the eyes look must be precisely aligned, otherwise an object cannot be fixated. A deviation measuring less than a single degree of the field of view is enough to cause double vision. In rats, the opposing eye movements between left and right eye mean that the line of vision varies by as much as 40 degrees in the horizontal plane and up to 60 degrees in the vertical plane. The consequence of these unusual eye movements is that irrespective of vigorous head movements in all planes, the eyes movements always move in such a way to ensure that the area above the animal is always in view simultaneously by both eyes –something that does not occur in any other region of the rat’s visual field.

These unusual eye movements that rats possess appear to be the visual system’s way of adapting to the animals’ living conditions, given that they are preyed upon by numerous species of birds. Although the observed eye movements prevent the fusion of the two visual fields, the scientists postulate that permanent visibility in the direction of potential airborne attackers dramatically increases the animals’ chances of survival.

Contact

Dr. Jason Kerr
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen
Phone: +49 70 7160-11721
Email: Jason@­tuebingen.mpg.de
Dr. Harald Rösch
Press and Public Relations
Administrative Headquarters of the Max Planck Society, München
Phone: +49 89 2198-1756
Email: roesch@­gv.mpg.de

Original publication
Damian J.Wallace, David S. Greenberg, Juergen Sawinski, Stefanie Rulla, Giuseppe Notaro, & Jason N. D. Kerr
Rats maintain an overhead binocular field at the expense of constant fusion
Nature, online May 26, 2013: doi:10.1038/nature12153

Dr. Jason Kerr | Max-Planck-Institute
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/7269965/rats-overhead-binocular-field

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

nachricht The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>