The lobula giant movement detector (LGMD) is a visual interneuron of Orthopteran insects involved in collision avoidance and escape behavior. The LGMD possesses a large dendritic field thought to receive excitatory, retinotopic projections from the entire compound eye. We investigated whether the LGMD's receptive field for local motion stimuli can be explained by its electrotonic structure and the eye's anisotropic sampling of visual space. Five locust (Schistocerca americana) LGMD neurons were stained and reconstructed. We show that the excitatory dendritic field and eye can be fitted by ellipsoids having similar geometries. A passive compartmental model fit to electrophysiological data was used to demonstrate that the LGMD is not electrotonically compact. We derived a spike rate to membrane potential transform using intracellular recordings under visual stimulation, allowing direct comparison between experimental and simulated receptive field properties. By assuming a retinotopic mapping giving equal weight to each ommatidium and equally spaced synapses, the model reproduced the experimental data along the eye equator, though it failed to reproduce the receptive field along the ventral-dorsal axis. Our results illustrate how interactions between the distribution of synaptic inputs and the electrotonic properties of neurons contribute to shaping their receptive fields.
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