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frontal view
histaminergic cells

RESEARCH Axel Schmid


Visual systems

Our main goal is to study the structure and function of the spider visual system and its role in visually guided behavior.

After having examined the optics, the fine structure, the spectral sensitivity, and the neuroanatomy of the visual systems (FG Barth in cooperation with KS Babu, E Eguchi, M Land, N Strausfeld, and students) we mapped immunocytochemically the distribution of different neurotransmitters in the visual neuropils. Moreover we could fully reconstruct some neuronal subsets connecting visual input areas to motor output areas (Matthis Duncker, Christine Becherer). The main present concern is to learn about the behavioral importance of visual information in a nocturnal spider with a highly developed visual system, which consists of two subsets of eyes serving different visual tasks.

We also study how the visual system changes during ontogeny from a Drosophila- sized spiderling to an adult animal with a leg span of at least 10cm, that is after an increase in size of about 60-fold and a significant change in life style (Christine Becherer, Nina Thill).

The visual discrimination capabilities are also analyzed in behavioral tests. Twofold simultaneous choice experiments demonstrated that the principal eyes serve a target-discrimination mechanism, whereas the secondary eyes (apart from other possible functions) serve a simple target detection mechanism (Nina Thill, Kristina Kosenburger). Like in jumping spiders, the retinae of the principal eyes can be moved. We record the activity of the eye muscles in tethered walking spiders (Florian Kaps). Single- and dual-channel telemetry is used to monitor the eye muscle activity in freely walking animals (Christine Trischler, Daniela Neuhofer, Eva Orlando). Neuroanatomical methods together with 3D-reconstructions were used to unravel the innervation of the eye muscles (Klaus Schicker).

Department für Neurobiologie
Universität Wien

Althanstrasse 14
A-1090 Wien
T: +43 1 4277 56501
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