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Jenny Read, Dr Vivek Nityananda, Dr Ghaith Tarawneh, Dr Ronny Rosner, Ms Lisa Jones; Natural behaviour with artificial stimuli: probing praying mantis vision. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):5. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/16.12.5.
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My lab is working to uncover the neural circuitry supporting stereoscopic vision in the praying mantis, the only invertebrate known to possess this ability. Mantises catch their prey by striking out with their spiked forelimbs. This strike is released only when prey is perceived to be at the appropriate distance, so provides an extremely convenient way of probing the insects depth perception. Other behaviours, such as tracking, saccades and optomotor response, also inform us about mantis vision. Because we are using natural rather than trained behaviours, our stimuli have to be naturalistic enough to elicit these responses. Yet as we begin the study of mantis stereopsis, clear answers to our scientific questions are often best obtained by artificial or indeed impossible stimuli. For example, using artificial cyclopean stimuli, where objects are defined purely by disparity, would enable us to be sure that the mantis responses are mediated totally by disparity and not by other cues. Using anti-correlated stereograms, which never occur in nature, could help us understand whether mantis stereopsis uses cross-correlation between the two eyes images. Accordingly, my lab is navigating a compromise between these extremes. We are seeking stimuli which are naturalistic enough to drive natural behaviour, while artificial enough to provide cleanly-interpretible answers our research questions although we do sometimes end up with stimuli which are naturalistic enough to present confounds, and artificial enough to lack ecological validity. I will discuss the pros and cons, and aim to convince you we are making progress despite the pitfalls.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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