This artice is free to access.
A puzzle for neuroscience—and robotics—is how insects achieve surprisingly complex behaviours with such tiny brains. One example is depth perception via binocular stereopsis in the praying mantis, a predatory insect. Praying mantids use stereopsis, the computation of distances from disparities between the two retinal images, to trigger a raptorial strike of their forelegs when prey is within reach. The neuronal basis of this ability is entirely unknown. Here we show the first evidence that individual neurons in the praying mantis brain are tuned to specific disparities and eccentricities, and thus locations in 3D-space. Like disparity-tuned cortical cells in vertebrates, the responses of these mantis neurons are consistent with linear summation of binocular inputs followed by an output nonlinearity. Our study not only proves the existence of disparity sensitive neurons in an insect brain, it also reveals feedback connections hitherto undiscovered in any animal species.
Rosner, R., von Hadeln, J., Tarawneh, G., & Read, J. C. A. (2019). A neuronal correlate of insect stereopsis. Nature Communications, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-10721-z