Visual Neuroscience

Research Articles

Visual processing in pigeon nucleus rotundus: Luminance, color, motion, and looming subdivisions

Yong-Chang Wanga1, Shiying Jianga1 and Barrie J. Frosta1

a1 Departments of Physiology and Psychology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada


The responses of single cells to luminance, color and computer-generated spots, bars, kinematograms, and motion-in-depth stimuli were studied in the nucleus rotundus of pigeons. Systematic electrode penetrations revealed that there are several functionally distinct subdivisions within rotundus where six classes of visual-selective cells cluster. Cells in the dorsal-posterior zone of the nucleus respond selectively to motion in depth (i.e. an expanding or contracting figure in the visual field). Most cells recorded from the dorsal-anterior region responded selectively to the color of the stimulus. The firing rate of the cells in the anterior-central zone, however, is dramatically modulated by changing the level of illumination over the whole visual field. Cells in the ventral subdivision strongly respond to moving occlusion edges and very small moving objects, with either excitatory or inhibitory responses. These results indicate that visual information processing of color, ambient illumination, and motion in depth are segregated into different subdivisions at the level of nucleus rotundus in the avian brain.

(Received August 28 1991)

(Accepted June 12 1992)


p1 Present address of Shiying Jiang: Department of Biology, Guangxi Normal University, Guilin, The People’s Republic of China.


Reprint requests to: Barrie J. Frost, Department of Psychology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6.