How a fly photoreceptor samples light information in time

Article English OPEN
Juusola, M. ; Song, Z.
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Journal: The Journal of Physiology (issn: 0022-3751, vol: 595, pp: 5,427-5,437)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1113/JP273645, pmc: PMC5556158
  • Subject: adaptive sampling | vision | drosophila | quantum bump | photoreceptor | Special section reviews: Shining new light into the workings of photoreceptors and visual interneurons | Symposium Review | information theory

Abstract A photoreceptor's information capture is constrained by the structure and function of its light‐sensitive parts. Specifically, in a fly photoreceptor, this limit is set by the number of its photon sampling units (microvilli), constituting its light sensor (the rhabdomere), and the speed and recoverability of their phototransduction reactions. In this review, using an insightful constructionist viewpoint of a fly photoreceptor being an ‘imperfect’ photon counting machine, we explain how these constraints give rise to adaptive quantal information sampling in time, which maximises information in responses to salient light changes while antialiasing visual signals. Interestingly, such sampling innately determines also why photoreceptors extract more information, and more economically, from naturalistic light contrast changes than Gaussian white‐noise stimuli, and we explicate why this is so. Our main message is that stochasticity in quantal information sampling is less noise and more processing, representing an ‘evolutionary adaptation’ to generate a reliable neural estimate of the variable world.