Invisible noise obscures visible signal in insect motion detection

The motion energy model is the standard account of motion detection in animals from beetles to
humans. Despite this common basis, we show here that a difference in the early stages of visual
processing between mammals and insects leads this model to make radically different behavioural
predictions. In insects, early filtering is spatially lowpass, which makes the surprising prediction that
motion detection can be impaired by “invisible” noise, i.e. noise at a spatial frequency that elicits
no response when presented on its own as a signal. We confirm this prediction using the optomotor
response of praying mantis Sphodromantis lineola. This does not occur in mammals, where spatially
bandpass early filtering means that linear systems techniques, such as deriving channel sensitivity from
masking functions, remain approximately valid. Counter-intuitive effects such as masking by invisible
noise may occur in neural circuits wherever a nonlinearity is followed by a difference operation.
File Size2.6 MiB
DateAugust 27, 2017
AuthorTarawneh G, Nityananda V, Rosner R, Errington S, Herbert W, Cumming BG, Read JCA, Serrano-Pedraza I